Monday, October 31, 2011

Hallowe’en for halloweejits

The poor oul Germans know nothing of Hallowe’en. No bonfires, no bracks, no bob the apples, no lanterns, no decorations, no terrifying stories. Nothing. There were bunches of kids going around earlier in half-arsed costumes begging for shit from shops and businesses. Typical Berliners – never mind the houses, hit the capitalists for a piece of their ill-gotten gain. We’ll give out about them, but we don’t mind enjoying their shit.
Germans think Hallowe’en is a fancy dress party. They were going around in costumes on Friday and Saturday for fuck’s sake! The Kulturbrauerei (and others too I’m sure) had a “Hallowe’en party” on Saturday. Two days before the night itself! Halloweejits.
I‘ve been so discouraged I didn’t even bake a brack this year, didn’t hang up any decorations, didn’t bother with a lantern. They’ve managed to turn a night about the souls of the departed into a totally soulless affair.
There were times Hallowe’en was the best celebration of the year. We spent weeks preparing for it, with practice bonfires in the run up to the big night, while we rampaged through farmers’ fields looking for the best turnips. (No pumpkins grew in Wexford at the time and we sure as hell weren’t going to buy them, but we made fine lanterns from turnips instead. Of course, you’d have to rip up about 20 of them to find one with the best suitable “pumpkin” shape.)
Then on the night itself we’d terrorise the village in our frightful (in both senses of the word) costumes, play games and eat brack, before heading up to a bonfire so big it could be seen from space. Jaysus there was everything and anything on that fire – beds, mattresses, planks, tractor tyres, car tyres, truck tyres, (we were eco warriors, fighting the environment), household waste – anything that would burn and plenty more besides. All the shit people had been wanting to get rid all year was dumped onto that bonfire. If your old pet needed cremating, on it went. Everything was doused in petrol to send great clouds of illuminated smoke blocking out the stars, our faces glowing orange from the blaze, the trees faraway on the field’s perimeter all a terrified orange too.
For extra laughs we’d run around the graveyard and jump up and down on the graves. They were protestant graves, it was OK. There were stories that if you ran around the church nine times and said the Hail Mary backwards that the devil himself would appear. But it’s hard to know the Hail Mary forwards, never mind backwards. Plus we were probably wary of going too far. It’s Hallowe’en – the one night of the year the souls of the dead roam free – and anything can happen.

After writing that, I feel inspired. I’m going to run to Kaisers to get me a pumpkin. If they don’t have any pumpkins, I’ll buy a fucking turnip. Damnit, something needs to be done. 

Update: As you may have guessed from the pictures, they had pumpkins. Reduced! So I came home with Pumpki, who already had an unHallowe’eny face and hair, but we scrubbed him up appropriately for the night that was in it. He’s on the balcony now. Anyone who looks up will know what night it is.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Seize the moments

Madness struck – I splashed out half a month’s wages on a camera. My little family will starve, they’ll wear cardboard for the winter, but fuck it we’ll have good photographs.
In a way it’s more important. For the last while – especially watching Nippity growing up – I’ve been cursing the shitness of what should be great photos. In 10 year’s time, 40 year’s time, 60 years from now, I won’t remember the month we starved or froze to death because I bought a camera. I suppose if we freeze to death I won’t remember it next week either. Na ja. At least the pictures of unrepeatable, never-again-to-be-captured moments will be there.
Something had to be done. If you’re going to take those photos at all, they should be fantastic. Hopefully ye’ll notice a marked improvement in picture quality from now on. My only worry is that the camera still isn’t good enough, but that’s another matter. Some food and clothes etc. are a necessity or I won’t be able to take any photos at all

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Holy Moley!

Prague’s most popular resident is a mole, Krteček. The little Mole is everywhere, doing his best to brighten the overall mood with his sunny disposition. Moles generally have sunny dispositions to make up for their lack of natural sunlight. It has to come from somewhere.
Krteček invariably wears a broad smile, with arms thrown open in welcome embrace, and one look at his big friendly eyes and three tufts of hair are enough to infect others with a sunny disposition too.
His charms have worked their way across the border – Der kleine Maulwurf has tunnelled his way into German hearts too, since he first got his pants in 1957.
I wasn’t aware of him before I came here though, moles being creatures non grata in Ireland. I presume St. Patrick got rid of them along with the snakes. The poor auld moles were always going to be on burrowed time once he came over, ranting about God and religion and all that jazz. They dug deep, but not even their conversion to Christianity – leading to popular use of the expression “Holy Moley” – could save them.
We brought our own Krteček back to Berlin with us. Sure how could we not? Those big eyes, those outstretched arms...
He’s bound to find loads of mole buddies here. Berlin’s underground scene is thriving and if there’s one place a mole’s disposition is at its sunniest, it’s underground. Moles just dig the underground. I’m sure Krteček’ll be no different.

The bottom pictures are photos I took of a calendar lovingly illustrated by Krteček’s creator Zdeněk Miler. I’m not sure if that impinges on copyright laws. (Perhaps any legal experts’d let me know.) Top is our very own Krteček, renamed Moley for pronunciation reasons. He’s not holy, at least I don’t think he is. He’ll be burrowing down the wrong tunnel if he is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pretty piggy Prague

Prague’s buildings are so pretty and delicate they have to dust them like ornaments. Seriously. Two guys were abseiling down the side of one building with feather-dusters while we were there. I don’t think they were checking for fingerprints.
It is pretty. The buildings are irrefutably impressive and trams of all shapes, sizes and ages trundle by on its streets. Some of the older ones are simply fantastic but the snazzy new ones, although they may be faster, are crap.
This phenomenon is not just restricted to trams, but many things great and small, as if the price for unimaginative progress is predictable decline. So I salute Prague’s abseiling feather-dusters as they lovingly brush their precious buildings above calm cobbled streets.
That would be the streets without the tourists, for the streets with the tourists are anything but calm. Hordes of camera-clutching visitors scurry across the Charles Bridge and up to Wenceslas Square, ooohing and aaahing and getting in each others’ way. It’s like the shops before Christmas or off-licences before Good Friday (when the pubs are shut in Ireland, leading to mass panic as people stock up on liquor to get them through the 24 hours) only worse.
Perhaps the tourist invasion explains why the Pragueshans are so damned grumpy, downtrodden and miserable looking. Even lovers sitting together on park benches looked like they were forced together at gunpoint.
Maybe boredom is to blame. There’s only so long you can look at and admire pretty buildings. There ain’t a lot to do in Prague, except drink. Thankfully there’s plenty of good beer available to chase away depression, although evidently not enough for the natives. Some of the beers were simply delicious, but not that Staropramen shite, which is the local brew. Budvar, whose German name was unashamedly stolen by American piss-producers, is deceptively tasty. I had to try it several times just to be sure.
The grub too is good, not as bad as I expected it to be. I was expecting weird sausages, soggy bread, fat dumplings and sauerkraut – such is Czech cuisine – but I ordered a shoulder of pork the first night we were there and it was so good I had the same every day thereafter. A big lump of pig served on a wooden board with chillies, horseradish, mustard, brown bread and nothing else – none of these so-called vegetables getting in the way – tastefully prepared and tastefully eaten. Yum! I’m getting hungry again now just writing about it.
Yes, Prague may be pretty, but more importantly, it’s piggy too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gumbreaker

Gumbreaking news! We have TEETH! They appeared this morning, to my eyes at least. Apparently they were there before, but seeing is believing, as any god-fearing bible-basher won’t tell you, and now that I’ve seen the two timid tusks peeping from the lower gum, I can safely say the nipper has teeth. It’s fangtastic.
I would have thought it’d make more sense for the upper teeth to grow first, so he doesn’t look like an upturned rabbit and so gravity could play its part in helping them grow, but this little fella seems to maximise the potential hilarity of a situation wherever possible.
The gumbreakthrough coincides nicely with his ninth monthiversary and perhaps it’s no coincidence it coincides also with a slightly whingier disposition than before.
It wasn’t so long ago since the last update on account of its lateness so I’ll make this is short as his developing gnashers are.
In the last month we brought him to Prague on the train (it bored him, more on the Czech capital here), he had his first meal served to him in restaurant (he won’t eat at home anymore), he held a gun, helped his mother mind a house in the countryside (once he learned how to use it, a blazing success) and we got him a new set of wheels, a Noddymobile, courtesy of his godfather. Less squeaky and a better viewing position so he can take in all around him. There’s no end to the crazy shit to see as we cart him around.
He had his first go on a swing, when he almost exploded with happiness, and cackled like a madman when we slid him down a slide the other day.
He can sit now (without a ‘H’) and kneel whenever the notion takes him, usually to take the toys out of the toy box and throw them around the room, or the books off the bookshelf to throw them around the room, or the shoes off the shoerack to throw them around the room... We won’t be bringing him to any museums in the near future.
His hands are simply brilliant. He’s got little dimples where you’d expect knuckles to be. The hands might be busy but they remain chubby, inflated by enthusiasm. To think there was once a time when they were too big for him...
He still likes grabbing leaves, flowers, electrical cables, the chain of my bicycle and buttons. Buttons are a source of wonder, and he’ll happily spend yonks sizing them up in his little chubby dimple-knuckled hand, gazing intently with his tongue protruded in concentration.
His tongue, in fact, is almost always out, whether in serious contemplation or in friendly greetings to another passenger in the U-Bahn. He’s constantly making friends on the U-Bahn. It’s not a problem yet, but could become an issue when he starts inviting everyone back for parties. He flirts outrageously anytime he gets on a train, man or woman it doesn’t matter. Yesterday he was sticking his tongue out and winking at a girl sitting across from us on the way back from Alexanderplatz.
He’s still growing like a baby elephant. In fact, he may very well be a baby elephant. I’ve lost count of how many chins he has and can no longer be sure he isn’t growing a trunk. Well, he is ¾. Maybe he’s ¾ of the way to becoming a fully-grown elephant. Now that he’s growing tusks...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The night the fish drank like the locals

Ninety four years ago tonight – possibly at this very moment – a German submarine torpedoed a boat full of Guinness killing four men on board.
If ever the tragedy of war was illustrated it was with this ultimately pointless sacrifice of all that lovely stout off Dublin Bay. Of course the loss of four innocent lives is nothing to be sniffed at either, but that stout!
Only the fishes had reason to cheer. Indeed the night of October 12, 1917 was remembered in fishlore for a long time afterward as the night the fishes drank like the natives, instead of the other way around.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Einundzwanzig verdammt!

Germany – as we know it – is 21 today. I remember my 21st. Upstairs in The Pickled Pig. It had a bad rep before; stabbings, rows, brawls and that kind of carry on, but I never saw any trouble there and it’s better to have a bit of life about the place than none at all. Although if the stabbings got out of hand one could lead to the other.
Anyway, ‘twas a grand pub at the time. It’s since been burned down, they say for the insurance money, though I wouldn’t know anything about that. There are apartments there now and no pub so ye can come to your own conclusions.
I hired the function room upstairs and a bar extension – to 1.30AM! Such were the licensing laws in Ireland at the time (and possibly still) that you couldn’t get a drink anywhere after 1.30am for love nor money. Then they wonder why the Irish drink so much, after years of drinking against the clock.
Much to my surprise, people turned up, loads of them, although I didn’t bother with the 21 kisses or any of that crap. Or maybe I did, I can’t remember.
To get around the chastity of the bar closing, I ordered a keg of beer complete with gas and equipment for the real party at home afterward. I’m sure the neighbours were thrilled. The place was jammed with friends and strangers we picked up during the relocation. I didn’t know half the people there. I remember two pretty Italian girls though they were untouchable at the time, not that it stopped my flatmate, for whom they were untouchable too, from trying.
The keg was finished, and in the morning, when there were bodies all over the apartment (I woke up behind the couch. I’ve no idea who or how many slept in my bed), the dregs were finished. Then over to the pub across the road. A damn good party if I say so myself.

What the hell is Germany doing? Feck all as far as I can see. For a country whose natives have an unhealthy obsession with birthdays, it sure is sheepish about its 21st. Baaaaaaaaaaaah.