Monday, February 27, 2012

Snotshot of madity 1: A good day

I spent my first day off for 17 days with my son. ‘Twas good. Just the two of us, man to man. We shot the breeze, cracked open a couple of beers, spat on the floor, discussed women, life, the point in anything...
Well, not quite. I brought him to the zoo. Fed him first of course. I didn’t want him eating the animals. I had to give him two helpings because half his first helping ended up on the floor, as did half his second helping, so really he only had one helping after all.
He was impressed by the goats and sheep, especially by the goat who was sticking his tongue out at him, but nonplussed by the penguins, seals, lions, tigers and otters, all of whom were doing their best to beguile him. Except the penguins of course – they’re too cool for that.
But the seals were jumping in and out of the water, bellowing or whatever noise it is seals make, and yer man spent the time looking at everyone around us; the otters fought, frolicked and fucked around; the lions roared like bejaysus, I mean ROARED, and he didn’t even look up, so happy was he to run around in circles.
Yes, he’s running now. I mightn’t have mentioned it before. He’s doing a lot of shit now that he wasn’t doing before. Except shit of course, he was always doing plenty of that.
He’s still eating like a horse and drinking like a fish. He’s gets bottled milk going to bed now. He even holds the bottle himself, with one hand, as if drinking a can of cider. So it’s grand, you can just leave him with the bottle and he’ll drink himself to sleep. A proper Irishman.
Jenny had to go off again so I had him for the evening too. Fed him again (he’s insatiable), before we shared strawberries for dessert. He went mad for them, but nearly exploded with happiness when I threw them up in the air and caught them in my mouth. One at a time of course, I’m not that good.
I guess it’s not surprising his manners are still atrocious, but at least he’s happy. I brought him to bed with his nightcap and now he’s asleep. A good day all round.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Syria: The world’s shame

Why the fuck is the world doing nothing about Syria?! Innocent people are being mercilessly murdered, blown to bits, systematically wiped off the face of the planet by a government holding onto its power and nobody is doing a fucking thing!
Germany expelled four Syrian diplomats to make its disapproval known. I’m sure that has them quaking in their boots, well done. The rest are even worse. There are talks. And more talks. And more fucking talks. China and Russia tacitly approve of the bloodshed.
Israel bleats on about the threat of Iran, the U.S. and U.K. war drums getting louder by the day, but the war games in Syria, which have long passed the threatening stage, aren’t lucrative enough for their involvement. Of course there was oil in Libya, oil in Iraq.
“I think the reports of my survival may be exaggerated,” Marie Colvin wrote in her last post Tuesday. “In Baba Amr. Sickening, cannot understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now. Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped. Feeling helpless. As well as cold! Will keep trying to get out the information.”
She was killed this morning. So was French photographer Rémi Ochlik.
Rami al-Sayed, who uploaded videos of the killing and destruction, wrote this yesterday: “Baba Amr is being exterminated. Do not tell me our hearts are with you because I know that. We need campaigns everywhere across the world and inside the country. People should protest in front of embassies and everywhere. Because in hours, there will be no more Baba Amr. And I expect this message to be my last.”
It was.

Addendum; Friday, Feb. 24 – Yes, I know it shouldn’t take the deaths of journalists to bring attention to the Syrians’ plight. The loss of their lives is no less tragic than any one of the 7,300 people who have been killed in the bloodshed so far.
What’s chilling is that they were targeted to prevent their messages getting out to an uncaring world. With them, at least people had a voice, they had hope. It may have been misplaced hope that something would be done to end their plight, but at least they had hope. Without it they have nothing at all.

Addendum to the addendum; Sunday, Feb 26 – Some further light reading:
www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/26/homs-syria-bomb-shelter

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Knockout experience

Little did I know when I watched two heavyweights knock shit out of each other for 12 rounds that the real action would only kick off afterwards.
I’m sure you know the story by now. In part, because I was there.
When Dereck Chisora said “I’m coming down there” there was a collective gasp of breath. Time slowed as he screeched his chair back. Then all hell broke loose. He may or may not have been hit in the face with a bottle by David Haye. I don’t know. I was there, but I don’t know. It all happened so fast. I don’t think anyone knows.
Chisora, who had just been beaten by Vitali Klitschko in the WBC title fight, and Haye, who lost his WBA belt to Klitschko’s younger brother Wladimir in July, went at it hammer and tongs. Bedlam. Fucking bedlam. People ran for cover, TV cameras were sent flying. And two heavyweights and their pals all tried to kill each other. Some people tried to intervene, but who’s going to stop professional fighters fighting?! It was madness, and it went on for some time, Wladimir laughing as he overlooked the chaos.
I ducked and dived beside them with my laptop in my hand. I wanted to get close, but not hit. I was hit at the last fight I was at, only this was serious. These hits could kill. They punched, rolled, wrestled as I looked on, striving to type, unable to peel my eyes away.
It ended as chaotically as it began. I don’t know how. No one knows how. Haye’s manager had blood streaming down his face, Chisora screaming repeatedly that he’d been “glassed.”
Wladimir gave interviews as I frantically typed up what I’d just witnessed. I had to get the news out!
I lost my jacket in the melee. The last time I lost my jacket was Noddy’s wedding, the time before was in Mexico. Proof, if needed, of a momentous occasion.
I finished work at 5 a.m.
Then, this morning, I get a phone call to say Chisora was arrested. Cue another day of madness, ringing police, chasing cars, freezing without my jacket hanging around outside the police station where he was being questioned. Haye had earlier escaped, but the Polizei wanted to speak with him too.
Again, I think the AP was first with the news of Chisora’s eventual release, seven hours later.
I didn’t see much of Munich. The Polizeipräsidium and the inside of the Olympiahalle were all I saw.
The Münchkins I met were either incredibly rude or incredibly friendly, Some fucker nearly ran over me at a zebra crossing when I arrived, and some fat oul’ bat shoved me out of her way on the tram (as I was leaving room for her!), but the rest were great.
Someone did “Gruß Gott” me, but in such a nice way that I Gruß Gotted him back, and I spoke to (the appropriately named) Gottfried Schlicht of the Polizei so often today that I feel I’ve made a new friend. I also managed to grab a coffee in between calls to the Polizei with the Honourable Husband.
I missed my train home of course, by seven hours, but am now sitting on the night train. I’ll be back in Berlin at 9 a.m., in time to work again. I could tell you plenty more but it’s already been written.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gruß Münchkin

I’m finally on my way to the land of the Münchkins, or München as they like to call it.
I’ve never had any great urge to visit the place. Somehow yodelling, pretzels and leather trousers just don’t do it for me. The Münchkins themselves are meant to be dry oul’ shites too, probably why they have to make so much beer, which is the world’s best, I will admit.
They’re not really Germans at all of course, but an entity among themselves, closer to the Austrians than anything else. And we all know what they’re like and what/who they contributed to the world.
But the Münchkins think the sun shines out of their arses. They wouldn’t stoop so low to say hello to anyone unless it’s to God himself.
“Gruß Gott,” they’ll say, thus confirming that as a mere mortal you’re only barely deserving of their precious breath.
One school has even outlawed “hallo” and “tschüß” because they’re not höflich enough, making “Gruß Gott” and “auf wiedersehen” mandatory for all, and the Bavarian educational honchos approve! I suppose it won’t be long long before “Gruß Gott” is compulsory everywhere.
The Berliners weren’t impressed when they heard that.
“We have more important things to worry about here,” your man on Motor FM said.
Anyone who Gruß Gotts me is going to be pointed to the nearest church.
Why am I going at all you ask? Well, Vitali Klitschko, who brought me on my first foreign assignment to Hamburg, is responsible. I thought I had problems with the way people greet each other in Munich; tonight Mr. Klitschko is going to show what he thinks of being slapped in the face. Now, that is unhöflich.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cologne clowns

Many people were dressed as clowns or wearing ridiculous costumes in Cologne today. Not even the usual German fashion sense can explain it, they were that ridiculous. Multicoloured trousers, funny hats and all sorts of things. Adults too, not even young adults, but old, people who should know better. Old goats dressed like kids. Unless they're that old that they've taken leave of their senses altogether. And I thought all the nuts ended up in Berlin...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Small beer country revisited

I’d forgotten the beers were teeeeeeny here. I finished my first thimble-full after dragging it out as long as I could. Damnit, I practically inhaled it, before tentatively asking your man behind the bar, "Gibt’s was großeres?"
He smiled, winked knowingly and held up his finger. I sighed a sigh of relief. Finally! A real beer that won’t be gone before you even drink it! He turned around, filled the glass and produced a thimble only slightly larger than the one before. Goddamnit. And now that one’s gone too.

Addendum; Thursday, Mar. 1 – I asked the barman the next day why the beers were so small in this part of the world. He said it was to do with the type of beer they drink and the gas used. Apparently they'd taste like crap if you pulled a beer here into proper-sized glasses. So he said anyway. It didn't stop him charging proper-sized beer prices for his thimble-fulls.

Messi business

Yesterday I covered two Bundesliga games, two tennis matches, two luge races, a ski jumping event, an athletics meet, finished off a feature on Bayer Leverkusen’s neverending troubles and wrote the preview for their game against Barcelona tomorrow. Jaysus, what a day.
Now I’m en route to Leverkusen to meet Messi and co. at Barcelona’s training session and hear Pep talk at this evening’s press conference. I’m looking forward to seeing them! Maybe I can show them a thing or two from my skills honed on the indoor football pitches of St. Thomas’ in Bray and Coláiste Bríde in Enniscorthy. (Irish saints were mad into indoor football.)
To see those silky skills transferred onto the Champions League stage by none other than the reigning Spanish, European and world champions would be a sight to behold.
Of course I’ll be covering the game tomorrow too. It’s the first foreign assignment in a month of foreign assignments. Next weekend I’ll be going to Munich to see Vitali Klitschko knock the head off some poor English fella. Then I’ll be going to Bremen for Germany vs. France at the end of the month.
They should make the dirty cheating French play with their hands tied behind their backs. I still haven’t forgotten, nor will any Irishman, woman, child or animal ever forget, how Handy Henri robbed us of a place at the World Cup.
However, I never let personal prejudices or grievances get in the way of my work, always impartial and fair. I’ll be civil and courteous to the French when I see them and I won’t even mention Real Madrid to the Barcelona lads tonight. Not unless they bring it up first.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Deutsched to the side

It’s over! Alles vorbei. My German course came to a shuddering halt last week, cruelly pitting me on my own against this contrary language without the help of my support group and closest confidants. What hope there ever was of me conquering this dastardly Deutsch has been shelved for now, quarantined indefinitely with ne’er a relief in sight. It’s almost as if the language doesn’t want to be learned!
Of course it’s easy to blame the language. Really I should look at myself. But German must be the most uncooperative and unyielding language there is to learn. The more you think you learn, the more you learn there is to be learned. How do I know it ever ends? Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s just a tease. Maybe it takes a sadistic pleasure from watching all efforts to master it crash against its grammatical rocks. The Schadenfreude of Sprachenfreude.
At least we tried – me and my Sprachenfreunde. Twice a week we’d meet up with high hopes of getting closer to that holy grail, led on our quest by the affable Wolfgang who did his best to encourage us. He has the patience of a saint, but you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Man kann kein Portemonnaie von ein Saus Öhrchen machen – oder so. He led us closer, no doubt, but even he must have wondered sometimes if there was any hope for us, well… any hope for me.
None of us wanted it to end. We had a farewell party AND a farewell drink. Needless to say there were plenty of drinks at the farewell party on the penultimate night, when Francesca surprised us with her singing, Masoud brought in some delicious Persian dish he made, Shirley has us (though not me) dancing to Scottish music and Wolfgang kept the party going with ‘Wild Thing’. Then we were all too knackered to have more than one drink on the last night.
“So you’re not our teacher then anymore?” Miguel asked Wolfgang as we threatened to get lost in sentimentality. (In German obviously. I’m translating for readers’ benefit.)
“Not for the last hour, no,” Wolfgang replied.
“Well, if you’re not our teacher it means you’re our friend.”
Of course none of us had the foresight to book another course, or even realise the one we were on was coming to an end. And so it is that we’ve arranged to meet up every Tuesday as before for a Stammtisch to continue our butchery of the language. As long as it’s not a Stummtisch we should be okay...

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Brrrrrrlin

One of the neighbours has taken to triple locking the front door downstairs to keep out the cold. Not only that, but when I went to bring down the rubbish earlier I discovered another door, locked, that I wasn’t even aware of being there before.
I mean Jaysus, it is cold, but triple locking doors ain’t gonna help. If anything it just prolongs the poor sod’s misery outside as their frostbitten fingers fumble with the keys to try to get in.
Four locked doors separated me from the rubbish, five if you count our own though that’s never locked, so someone obviously believes the rubbish must be somehow responsible for this infernal cold. Not that cold can be infernal, or it wouldn’t be cold anymore, but you know what I mean. Unless hell has frozen over...
I don’t know what the temperature is. I no longer care. It’s fucking freezing and that’s all there is to it. Minus and counting. It has me wondering why I moved to such an inhospitable place in the first place. Fair enough I should suffer the consequences of my madness, but now others have to suffer them through no fault of their own. It’s cruelty to subject a child to such hellishness.
We walked on water today. Like Jesus, though he only does that trick when it’s warm. Kreuzberg’s canals are completely frozen over, so we were able to walk on the Landwehrkanal as we made our way to shelter. Many others did too, some with prams, others with ice skates. It’s very pretty if you can survive long enough to enjoy it.
A couple of miserable-looking ducks bobbed up and down on the Spree as we passed. There are huge ice floes on it, but the river itself hasn’t frozen over yet. Those ducks are just counting down their remaining days. They’re ducked. You’d think they’d duck in somewhere...
I’m sure Berlin’s abandoned buildings are just stuffed with homeless right now, huddling together, drinking themselves into a stupor so they can no longer feel the cruel biting cold. Poor fuckers. Some of them have died already, as did some oul’ wan who escaped from a nursing home. Yes, it’s that cold. I don’t think double locking, triple locking, or even quadruple locking doors is going to help.