Monthly Archives: May 2014

All the Ways Berlin has Tried to Reject Me.

It can’t all be sunshine and roses when you move to a new place. There are going to be some things that take some getting used to. Here is a list of things that, over the past 3 weeks, have made me feel like I do not quite belong here.

1. The tea. It’s not proper tea. It’s like they’ve gotten everyone’s old, used teabags from the UK, dried them out and then re-sold them in Germany. It’s so weak.

2. People don’t like jaywalking. People don’t DO jaywalking. As I have always considered my jaywalking not so  much an illegal act but more a demonstration of my ‘elite road-crossing skills’, this makes me sad. Why won’t you let me demonstrate my amazing skillz, Berlin?? It makes me sadder when people glare at me as I jaywalk from their cars, their bikes, their safe positions on the footpath waiting for the green man. Not sad enough to stop me doing it, mind, but certainly sad enough to write a couple of sad sentences about it.

3. I live on Eisenbahnstrasse, ok? A couple of weeks ago, I was heading home after having walking all day. I was exhausted. I was hungry. I was weak. I saw a sign pointing down a street which read Einbahnstrasse. To my untrained eyes, this looked like my street name. It wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why someone would put a sign up with my street name on it which was pointing to my street. A few days later I realised, of course, that wasn’t my street name. Walking around Berlin over the next few weeks, I kept seeing this street name everywhere, ‘Einbahnstrasse’ and an arrow. I thought, wow! This must be the main street of Berlin! It goes everywhere! It goes all the way through all the suburbs! I wonder if it is like their National Highway or something! Then, two days ago, I looked at the sign again and realised it meant, ‘One Way Street.’ Yeah, thanks Berlin. I feel suitably stupid.

4. False advertising. Berliners seem to have an obsession with things that are ‘donation only’. I’ve heard about bars, restaurants, venues that are all ‘donation only’. However, I warn you, fair traveller, that the people running these bars, restaurants, venues say you can pay what you like, but if what you like is smaller than what THEY like, then be prepared to be humiliated and made to feel tiny and insignificant and THE WORST HUMAN BEING IN THE WORLD until you pay them more money. Alex and I went to a concert that was ‘donations encouraged’. Alex put 20 Euro in the bucket as we left, however, I didn’t see this and the woman with the bucket didn’t know we were together. I opened my wallet and realised I had no cash. Hurriedly pulling some coins together, I threw them in the bucket, which made a huge clang. She said (in terrifying German, with a terrifying stare), excuse me, why so little? I tried to explain I had no cash, that I would go talk to my friend and see if I could get some more and then come back, whilst she stared at me as if I was lower then the filthiest and smelliest of dog shits. When I found out that Alex had put in more than enough for the both of us, I didn’t bother going back, we left as quickly as we could. A few things I find upsetting about this:

  • We had paid more than enough between the two of us
  • Despite the fact that we had paid more than enough between the two of us, if you are going to say, ‘donations encouraged’ (and what I read about the venue had said ‘donations encouraged’), then you have to take what you get and be grateful about it. If you think that there is a minimum that people should be spending, then you be upfront about that. For example, ‘Pay-What-You-Can Tuesdays’ at Belvoir St Theatre used to be minimum $10. If, however, you have not stated this, then you should not ritually abuse and humiliate the customers who chose to take you at your word. Because this will just encourage them never to come back (I will never be going back).
  • This woman had absolutely no idea who I was or what I did. She didn’t know that I was an artist or currently unemployed. She didn’t ask any of these things. She just thought I was being cheap. She didn’t know that I had done a show for donations only last year and I had smiled politely every time someone gave me Jersey money, or who sneered at my bucket and left without putting anything in. Sure, that might make me poorer and more stupid than this terrifying German woman, but, nevertheless, she had absolutely no right to question my commitment to, or valuing of, the arts.

5. The transport maps. OH MY GOD, the transport maps. ‘Let’s take the navy blue line to get to the cyan line to get to the lavendar blue line to get to the sky blue line to get to the…’ I assume they’ve been coloured geographically or thematically, and that theme is ‘be as confusing as possible so that it’s easier to spot the lost tourists so we can then laugh at them’. No, that’s not fair. I’m sure there is some perfectly logical reason someone designed it that way. And that reason is that Berlin hates me.

6. The plane trees. OH GOOD GOD THE PLANE TREES. You know they’re called London plane trees? Well, if the number of plane trees is anything to go by, I am more in London now than I ever was in London. If you get me. Do you know how allergy advertisements always have those incredibly exaggerated pictures of pollen and fluff and leaves and you’re always like, ‘Ha! As if that’s anywhere real.’ Well, I’m here to tell you people, that Berlin in Spring is like living in a hayfever ad. Or, it’s like living in this:

Except, instead of volcanic ash raining down on you it’s that itchy, sneezy, fluffy white stuff that plane trees release every Spring. I’m beginning to think my insides are now entirely covered in white Plane Tree fluff (is there a technical term?), because every time I go out, it goes up my nose, down my throat, in my ears, in my eyes and just settles ominously inside me…

7. The coolest bridge in Berlin is also the one that smells constantly, entirely and overpoweringly of urine. Many buskers play there too, which is nice, but does beg the question, how can they possibly stand it?

8. Making a reservation at a bar for 7pm, then turning up and finding the entire bar empty. Why? Because everyone’s napping at 7pm! No one goes out ’til 9:30pm at the earliest! For dinner! They don’t go to the bar until midnight! Maybe! Or maybe they’ll have another little nap and go straight to the club at 4am! This is what happens to people when they don’t have to worry about catching the last tube.

9. It’s finally sunny and 28 degrees and NOW I have a cold. Seriously, WTF, Berlin? WTF.

 

 

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A Haircut in German

Well it’s been a week and I’m still here. I haven’t booked the next flight home to Australia, I haven’t attempted to sneak back into the UK via the (lets admit it) rather flimsy Northern Irish border.

I quite like it here. I’m very much enjoying my German class, which gets me up and out of bed for 9:15 every morning. I eat a banana, I have nutella on crackerbread and a cup of tea then walk to school, which takes 40 mins and wakes me up. Like every good kindergartener, I am completely in love with my teacher, whose praise and attention I am constantly searching for. The truth is, I was always a much better student than I have been at anything else I attempted in life and going to German class every morning has allowed me to regress to those happiest of days. This isn’t me rewriting history through a haze of nostalgia, by the way, I was always aware of how much I enjoyed school, even as a teenager. Except for a couple of rough transition years at the start of high school, I never wanted sit at the back of the class and ignore the teacher. I liked the teacher. Even the teachers that didn’t like students anymore, due to years of yelling and reprimanding and putting up with being the butt of jokes, the teachers who didn’t trust students anymore – I was determined to like them too. I felt sorry for them. I secretly wanted to convince them that I was not like all the others, I was a student who respected and wanted them to like me and would like them back. Yeah, there’s all sorts of psychological issues bound up in my feelings about teachers and people of high status and importance, but let’s just leave that for the moment, and get back to the point.

loved being a student. I loved learning. I loved essays. I loved grades, for God’s sake. Sure, when I got bad ones that was a bit unpleasant, but it got to the point when I could stop doing the subjects I wasn’t interested in and just do the ones I liked and then everything was easy. Even when it wasn’t cool, I loved being a student.

I’m not trying to crow here, I know school wasn’t a bowl of cherries for everyone. Also, saying I was a good student essentially tells you that I was very good at completing tasks with defined rules. I was good at following an authority figure. I was good at learning accepted knowledge and regurgitating it on demand. I was good at being a subordinate. None of these things are good for life. None of these skills are ones that are going to assist you when you drop out of college and found your multi-billion dollar tech company. I don’t think it’s that great I am so good at being student. All I’m trying to do is give you and idea of the  undeniable bliss I am experiencing right at the moment.

It certainly helps that I’ve convinced myself I am some kind of German genius. That me and the German language are connected on a deep, personal level. That I understand this language. It’s strange rules make sense. There’s a family myth that somewhere in my mother’s lineage there are German- Australian settlers from the late 19th – early 20th century and for the past week I have become more and more convinced that this true and my latent Germanic heritage is finally rearing its head in the form of my UNBELIEVABLE, UNEXPECTED and UNNATURAL FLAIR for the GERMAN LANGUAGE.

Of course, I’m cheating a little. There was that year of German study I did back in high school that I thought I remembered nothing of. More importantly, there’s my basic Norwegian skills that give me a slight edge – not only can I easily pick up the German words that sound and look similar to English, German words like ‘reise’ and ‘bild’ and ‘kunst’ hold no mystery for me, due to their exact transfer from/to Norwegian.

Also, I’m actually, probably, not as good as I think I am. This was made clear to me yesterday when I started happily writing out all of my vocab (colour-coded for gender) and I realised I’d written down a hell of a lot of wrong meanings that I thought I had understood and Collins’ online German dictionary was telling me I hadn’t:

Look at all my pretty pretty colours!!!

Look at all my pretty pretty colours!!!

Nevertheless, I’m doing my goody-two-shoes act at school. I’m the student that everyone hates. I pretend I am the Hermione Granger of German class. I yell out answers to possibly rhetorical questions just to fill the silence. I am ridiculously over-enthusiastic about participating in games. I chuckle knowingly at the ridiculous dialogues we are meant to translate (‘Das ist kein Geldautomat! Das ist ein Fahrkartenautomat!’ Oh ho ho, silly fake German man who is trying to get money out of a travel ticket machine, how that did tickle my funny bones). I read animatedly with what, I assume, is some kind of accurate German accent, but is probably more Norwegian-laced Australian.

Das ist kein Geldautomat! Das ist ein Fahrkartenautomat!

Das ist kein Geldautomat! Das ist ein Fahrkartenautomat!

What has been boosting my confidence is the tiny little interactions I am having with ACTUAL GERMAN PEOPLE outside of class. I’m not going to lie, they’re not perfect by any means. But they DO take place in German. I went to a fancy supermarket the other day to buy cheese. The lady at the counter spoke very quickly in German to me. I apologised (in German) and said I spoke bad German. She said that was very good German! I asked her if she spoke English. She didn’t. So I proceeded to order my cheese in German. There wasn’t much ordering. She asked me if I wanted all of a piece of cheese. I said no, ‘small’. She asked if I wanted it in half, I said yes. I picked up another cheese, she told me it was Goat’s cheese. I didn’t do a lot of talking, but what I said was understood and I got all the cheese I wanted. We were both very pleased with ourselves.

Another day I bought beer at the store (I DRINK BEER NOW, WHAT IS THIS), I came to the counter and the man told me the price. One trick I always use to stop people speaking to me in English is to look at the cost on the till. However, it came up on his till as a price that I didn’t expect. I said to the man, Sorry, 3.20? and pointed at the till. He said no, it was the price I expected. Yes, ok, it’s not like I’m reciting Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses in German, but, hell, I’ve been here a week, ok?

Today I got a haircut in German. I did some preparations beforehand. I made sure the hairdresser I went to had ‘Frauen’ out the front so I knew they cut ladies hair. Then I looked up, ‘Can I have a haircut?’ on Google translate and ‘I don’t have a Reservation’ and ‘to the chin.’ I wrote them down in my smartphone notes and then headed out. I won’t lie – I was nervous. I mean, telling someone what you want them to do to your hair is a delicate business even when you speak the same language. But everyone assured me everyone spoke English in Berlin, so surely, if worse came to the worst, I could speak English to them. Surely?

I got to the hairdressers and stood outside, looking at the windows nervously. There seemed to be a side for men and one for women. The men’s side was full. The women’s side was empty. Luckily, a gentleman walked out and smiled at me in a friendly manner. He said something in German that I failed to understand. I said that I was sorry I didn’t speak good German. He said that wasn’t a problem. So I said, in English, ‘Could I have a haircut?’ He looked worried and ummed and ahhed, then gestured to a woman down the street. So, I pulled out my phone and showed him my note, ‘Kann ich einen Haarschnitt?’ He smiled and said, ‘natürlich’. The woman approached and greeted me. I showed her my phrase too. She said, not a problem. Then, as all hairdressers do, she attempted some conversation. She asked where I was from. I was delighted. I knew this phrase. This was definitely one of the German phrases I had been taught and knew off by heart in the past week. I said I was from Australia and she nodded and made a sound of interest. She said it was cold and closed the door. I agreed, delighted with myself. She asked how much I wanted off, making a small sign with her fingers. I shook my head and said, ‘zum Kinn’ and showed her. It all went very smoothly. She asked if I wanted my fringe cut. I said yes, she took a little off and showed me. She wanted to know if I wanted it shorter. I did. All up, it took about 15 mins. Ok, it wasn’t 15 minutes of German speaking, but, come on. You’ve got to be impressed – I’ve only been here a week! I’m impressed, even if no-one else is. And to top it all off, it only cost me 10 Euro. Best afternoon ever.

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Disillusion

One of the things I’m supposed to be doing whilst I’m in Berlin is to write my Edinburgh Fringe script. I meant to do this over Christmas, then I meant to do it in January, then I meant to do it in February and eventually I decided I would put it off until May, when I wouldn’t be working and I’d have loads of free time to write it.

But now that I’m here I still don’t want to write it and I’m using every excuse that I can think of to not do it.

I’ve kind of put myself in a bind as I’ve already registered for the fringe (which is a lot of money), got a venue etc. I certainly can still pull out and I can just go up there and review (which sounds delightful now that I say it out loud), but there’s this self-destructive part of me that still wants to go up there and perform.

I think there are a lot of things that are playing into my reluctance to write this show. I mean, there is always a certain amount of struggle at the start of a script and it can take me months (or years) to find the right entry-point into a particular piece of writing. That said, I’m not particularly dedicated at looking for those entry-points – I try a variety of things for a few days or a week or so and if it doesn’t work I give up. If I then happen to get interested in the subject again I may try again in a few months time. I think one of the main reasons I’m not a more successful artist is that I don’t work hard enough. But, anyway, that is not the point.

The problem with this particular script is that apart from struggling with all the usual, ‘but where is it set? What’s actually happening? At what point does the story start? What’s the tone? But this writing is shit’ etc. questions & criticisms is that I don’t think I actually care anymore.

It’s a feeling that’s been sneaking up on me over the past couple of months, maybe years, I’m not sure, but it’s certainly gained in strength since January this year. I don’t actually care about theatre anymore, about being involved in it professionally. I’m sick of trying so hard and getting so little back. I’m sick of the constant disappointments and the constant feeling that I’m not good enough. I’m sick of not having any money and supporting myself in dead-end jobs that I hate. This is the ‘industry’ that everyone warned me about when I wanted to go into acting but, at the time, I thought I loved it enough to get through anything. Turns out that’s not true. Or, at least, when it feels like I’m getting nowhere, that each project or achievement is separate, that I’m not actually building anything, no career or reputation or future; when it feels like I will never, ever get out of this scrambling around on the bottom-rung of the industry I think, ‘well, sod this for a game of soldiers.’ Or something with harsher language.

Don’t feel too sorry for me, I feel happier at the moment than I have in a long, long time. But in terms of my so-called ‘career’, I have never been less interested and more disillusioned. I hate all the fetishising of ‘creatives’ and ‘creativity’ that happens in our middle-class Western society, I hate people that tell me that if I just follow my dream or what I love everything will turn out fine and I’ll figure out what I want to do, as if by magic. I’ve become like the grumpy Dad in a B-grade ‘Follow Your Dreams’ type Hollywood film, admonishing his daughter, ‘But acting’s not a real job! You have to accept facts some time Dorothy. Part of being a grown-up is accepting that to have a good life there are certain things you will have to do that you may not like.’

And all of this is seeping into my attempts to write. On top of all the usual fears of will it be good enough, will it make sense, there’s in an overarching, bigger feeling which is just sighing and rolling it’s eyes and sneering, ‘Yeah, but you know, who even cares? You’re well past it by this point anyway. If your ‘career’ was going anywhere, it would have started going there by now.’ I sit in front of my computer thinking, ‘Ok, so what is this story about, why should people care about it?’ And my brain comes back with, ‘Dunno. I don’t even care about it.’

I am so sick of all of it. I don’t think I like writing. I don’t think I like acting. I don’t even think I like the theatre that much, either, having seen it from the inside. It’s become a compulsion for me, like the alcoholic who finds himself in the pub when he was meant to be buying milk or the gambler who is parking at the casino when she had been heading home. I went and signed myself up to the Edinburgh Fringe without genuinely thinking about whether or not I wanted to do all the things that come with it, like writing a play and then performing it. Turns out I don’t. I don’t want to do any of those things.

 

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Things I Like About Berlin (so far)

1. There is a street named after Karl-Marx. Yes, ok, he was German and so that is probably the reason, but still, I like how even with all the troubles Berlin suffered at the hands of communism, no-one has said, ‘hey, maybe we should change that street name.’ Ok, yes, so Karl Marx HIMSELF didn’t actually do all the terrible things to Berlin, but, STILL. It looks hardcore and communist, ok? And I LIKE THAT.

2. These fellows:

Bucket Flower Friends

Bucket Flower Friends

3. A girl wearing a T-shirt saying, ‘I Will Not Keep Calm, Fuck Off.’

4. Tempelhof

5. This indie-folk band named the ‘Charity Children’ whose concert I will be attending on the 10th of June:

Charity Children. Appear to be neither charity-cases nor children.

Charity Children. Appear to be neither charity-cases nor children. But the good music is not a lie.

6. Walking by the Spree

7. This Hundebar (Dog Bar):

Hundebar. Complete with lovely garden and fake butterflies in tree.

Hundebar. Complete with lovely garden and fake butterflies in tree.

8. The interesting historical signs everywhere (in German AND in English!)

9. This man, who is ‘some art’:

That is SOME art.

That is SOME art.

10. Watching a man in an electric wheelchair speed down my street whilst doing his yodelling warm-up at 10am. Yodelling. REALLY.

11. This statue of some firemen who seem to be about to have a water fight:

They all look like the same fireman too. It's like that awesome scene with all the Johnny Depps in the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

They all look like the same fireman too. It’s like that awesome scene with all the Johnny Depps in the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

12. This children’s playground with these in-ground trampolines:

You know I bounced on them. I bounced on them so hard.

You know I bounced on them. I bounced on them so hard.

And this cheery message in the midst of all the play equipment:

Happy lives, kiddies!

Happy lives, kiddies!

13.These posters:

IMG_0597

IMG_0598

IMG_0599

14. Having a Diet Coke at a Spree-side bar and lying on a giant orange cushion thing in the sun and wearing sunglasses and pretending there is such a thing as the German Riviera and that I am currently experiencing it. ‘Ordering’ in German (and by that, I mean, taking the Diet Coke over to the woman and correctly guessing what she is saying to me based on my experience with other similar conversations. “Tsdffhwiuecnckeghg?” Hmmm… what would a salesperson be asking me at this point, I know, ‘is that all I want?’ “Ja.” Ha. Totally nailed it. Hand over 10 euro note as this will surely cover cost of teenty-tiny bottle of Diet Coke and have no idea what she actually told me it cost. “Tasrhwekfsdfhubtwetwkdu?” Oh no, she’s asking me something else. It sounded like numbers. She must be asking if I have a particular coin. BUT WHICH COIN??? “Tsiheunfnahbutghihg Funfzig?” Oh, she just said 50. Maybe I could give her 50 instead. Search purse for 50 cent coin, come up with a 20 and three 10s. She takes the 20. Ah. So the first unknown number must have been ’20.’ Such German knowledge. Very wow.)

15. This tree that is missing it’s middle:

What happened, Mr. Tree??

What happened, poor Mr. Tree??

16. This table for ‘High’ tea:

I'll take the third tier, thank you.

I’ll take the third tier, thank you.

17. OMG THIS WEATHER:

Just a bit different from yesterday (check out the post on Tempelhof if you're curious)

Just a bit different from yesterday (check out the post on Tempelhof if you’re curious)

 

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Tempelhof

Have you ever wanted to walk on an airport runway? And I don’t mean those tiny little 4 min jaunts out the airplane doors, where air hostesses wave you on and make sure you walk between the lines. No, I mean, walking smack bang in the middle of the runway where the plans land. Well, I know I have always wanted to. And today, in Berlin, I fulfilled that dream. 

Tempelhof is the old West Berlin airport and is an incredibly important part of modern Berlin history. Before it was an airport, it was a field where one of the major Nazi rallies took place in 1933 and, during the war it was a munitions factory with forced labour from many of the occupied countries. As an airport, it ceased operations in 2008. Since then, it has been converted into a massive park. There are many interesting things to be found in the park: community gardens, art installations, softball fields, but most delightfully odd of all, the park has kept the old runways of the airport. 

Walking around the park/airport is an oddly beautiful experience. It is rare to see such open space in the middle of a city. Most inner-city parks have trees dotted everywhere – there is a conscious effort made to make the park look ‘natural’ and ‘full’. This hasn’t happened yet at Tempelhof. Instead of attempting to turn it into something it’s not, the Germans seem to be embracing the ‘abandoned urban landscape’ feeling of the place. Which is exciting and interesting and I wonder if it would happen in a place like London (I severely doubt that much open space would be left to lie dormant in space-limited London). I mean, let’s face it – there’s no escaping how tiny you are when walking around on an old airport. It’s like the German government went,’yes, ok, we’ll give you a park, but we will not let you enjoy it! You must experience existential angst and/or anxiety whilst at the park! YOU WILL NOT HAVE FUN!’ In all seriousness though, I feel that the Germans (and this might be me talking about my arse, after all I’ve only been here 2 days) are more prepared to embrace the urbanity of their city – they don’t prettify it in the way that I think London might. I have only been hanging out in the East though and I remember (from my last trip 9 years ago) that the West looked quite different. Plus, there are still plenty of traditional parks about – one right next to Tempelhof, in fact, that has all the overhanging trees and dark pathways that you could want. 

Anyway, apart from the existential angst, the abandoned runways make for excellent kiteboarding, as you can see from this image from the opening of the park (found at: http://www.ota-berlin.de/blog/05/10/berlin-tempelhof-airport-opened-to-the-public-yesterday/): 

Image

 

It was slightly less warm and welcoming today, but I still saw two elegant kiteboarders surfing the tarmac. 

Let me tell you – it takes a long time to walk around an airport, even a small one. By the end of my walk I was freezing and most parts of my body had politely retired from the game, requiring a brief stop on an old airport artefact of some description: 

Image

(It’s May. Look at that jacket. IT’S MAY, BERLIN. MAY. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Last month of Spring? Sheesh.)

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Things I Have Learnt About Germany (so far)

Things I learnt from the air:

1)    There are many more backyard pools in Germany than England. Backyard pools or hot tubs (you sexy Germans)

2)    German farmers like to make fancy tractor patterns in their canola fields. One might even call it vanity mowing.

3)    German apartment blocks like bright block colours (ha)

 

Things I learnt from the ground:

1)    You can drink your alcohol at the off-licence. Or just outside. They have tables and chairs for you.

2)    I am apparently much more sexually attractive to Germans than to Brits. Either that or the English are just better at hiding their incredible lust for me. Have been propositioned twice in one day, one by a homeless man and once by a drunken man. Score! It is always odd to be propositioned when you don’t speak the language (I mean, I presume that was what was happening with all the leering and the gyrating). All I can say is, very politely, that I don’t speak German, which is a little disappointing when you’re actually wanting to tell them to go f**k themselves.

3)    1st of May is MASSIVE in Germany. My new Belgian housemate (I’m so continental!) said to me when I got in, ‘Well, you know it’s the First of May, so there is lots to do.’ I thought at first that he meant there are many and varied administrative tasks that German citizens and German residents must complete on the first day of each month (I don’t know why, I was sleep-deprived and working off stereotypes). Pay bills, fill out timesheets, let the government know that they are still alive etc. etc. It took me a good 6 hours to remember that the 1st of May is Labour Day. This realisation then negated another thing I thought I had learnt about Germany: that everyone is, or appears to be, an Anarchist. No, it’s just the First of May, which is essentially the Left’s Christmas (or it SHOULD be. OMG, that is an awesome idea, someone make that happen). I saw a group of Anarchist youth (or similar) playing ten-pin bowling (or similar) with glass beer bottles in front of a row of 10 police vans. Rebels.

4)    When you rent a room in Germany, you rent a room. My room came with exactly nothing. Not even curtains. There was a broom though. And my housemates have moved the sofa bed into my room, which was very kind. But I will be sleeping under my jacket tonight as Lidl and Aldi were both boarded up (I presume for the same reason that there were riot police everywhere – 1st of May), so I was unable to buy blankets. In a snap decision made at 2am Thursday (never make snap decisions at 2am Thursday), I left my sleeping bag with the other luggage I left in London, because I wasn’t sure Ryanair would let me have it attached to the outside of my checked luggage. Luckily I have a fake fur coat. And jumpers. Many, many jumpers.

5)    Do not tell the market stall vendor that you don’t speak good German just before he gives you a price for the postcards that you want to buy. He will assume that you are a tourist and he can therefore charge whatever the hell he wants for his postcards because there was no price on the box and because he knows (because you TOLD him) that you cannot haggle with him. In anyway. That said, if I was ripped off, I was ripped off during a conversation held entirely in German, all of which I understood, so as far as I was concerned it was a victory. In hindsight, I should have just handed him a fiver and looked innocent when he told me that wasn’t enough. I will do that next time. Excellent non-verbal negotiating skills. Learning.

6)    Berlin is very cool. Everyone is very, very cool. That may be because I am living in the equivalent of Dalston, but still. Everyone in Dalston is an insufferable hipster. Everyone in Berlin is much more laidback, much more COOL. I am worried that I am not, in fact, cool enough to live in Berlin. I have been filling my phone with photos of COOL street art that I see just in case the Berlin police accost me in the street and demand I present my cool credentials and justification for being allowed to live in Berlin (seriously, even the police I saw seemed very cool and attractive. I kind of wanted take all of the anarchists and the police by the hand and say, ‘Hey, Guys, you’re clearly all coming from the same stylish place, can’t you just put down your various weapons and share a beer at your local off-licences, because that is a thing that is apparently legal in this country?’)

Funky Pigeon has let himself go.

Funky Pigeon has let himself go.

I like this dude. He's all, whaaattt??

I like this dude. He’s all, whaaattt??

7) Supermarkets don’t take credit cards. Like, what? I mean, I know there was a big financial crisis a couple of years ago and it all hinged on bad credit, but, come on, Germany! I’m not the Royal Bank of Scotland (snap!) I’m no Anglo-Irish Bank (double snap!) I haven’t loaned out a whole heap of mortgages to people who won’t be able to pay them back on a bunch of worthless properties (snap snap snap snap snap!)! Just let me put the 20 Euro on my freakin’ credit card and I promise to pay it straight back. I’ll even put it on my credit card and then walk home (with my groceries) and transfer the cash immediately to the credit card. I promise. I’ll write the promise down for you. And sign it and everything. Anyway, the point it that they don’t take credit card as I discovered, to my embarrassment, at Lidl, with a pile of groceries, no cash on me and a line of slightly annoyed looking Germans waiting behind me. I brought more and more cards out for the sales girl to shake her head at. Finally we found one that worked. So, the Germans could get their groceries and I could get out of Lidl with my dignity still (kind of) in tact as well as food for my belly (belly was hangry).

8) I really really really don’t know any German. I think I bought Conditioner at the store today. I mean, I definitely bought Shampoo, because apparently the German word for shampoo is shampoo, but then there were these other products, beside the shampoo, that all had the same name on them and I had to assume it said conditioner, and they were in the same colours as the shampoo and the same containers as the shampoo and kind of looked like they could be compliment the shampoo and add softness and bounce where the shampoo had taken it away and because, really, in all honesty what else could it be? I guess I’ll find out.

9)    In Germany, unicorns ride children, because children are HARDCORE:

Child in Germany. Has Unicorn.

Child in Germany. Has Unicorn.

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Lovely London Days

I know I haven’t blogged in many many months and there are reasons for that and they are good and proper and many and they are: too busy and was writing other things.

Mainly I’ve been writing theatre reviews, which has been great and not only gotten me free tickets to some excellent (and some not-so-great) shows, it also stretched my brain a bit. In terms of busyness, well, I’m not going into much detail, but all my time has been occupied and maybe some day I will tell you more about that and maybe some day I won’t and maybe it’s totally obvious and maybe it’s not, but it’s been a wonderful, jam-packed 4 months.

On top of being too busy to write, I went through a very strange period at the end of last year where I wanted to keep everything to myself (I know, right? Weird). I think it was also an acknowledgement of the amount of crap out there on the internet to distract you and rot your brain and I decided I didn’t want to be another contributor to the steaming pile of brain-rot poo. But, hey, now I’m on my own in Berlin and I don’t have the internet (am writing this on Microsoft Word to be uploaded later) and I don’t speak the language and I don’t know where to go and so I’m all lonesome (and bored) tonight and suddenly recording all the little thoughts that have gone through my head in the past 4 months seems not only a good idea, but the only useful thing to do with my time (yes, I should be writing my Edinburgh Fringe play, but, shhhhh… procrastination is the only way I get OTHER things done).

I have had many a lovely London day in the past 4 months, which I have neglected to record. However, in honour of me leaving London behind (*sob*) I thought now was the perfect time to get caught up in a haze of nostalgia and talk about some of those lovely days.

First of all, going all the way back to February, I went on the Deptford Creek Discovery Walk. And even though I got the WORST two-week cold afterwards (and I do kind of blame the walk), this was awesome. Deptford Creek is a little creek coming off the Thames and running through Deptford and Greenwich areas. The walk takes pace IN the creek at low tide, so your ticket includes thigh-high waders, waterproof jackets and long walking sticks to put ahead of you in the stream to measure the height of the water ahead of you. Because of all the rain on January and February in the UK, the water was unusually high and fast, even at low tide, which made the whole thing that more fun. There was a real thrill to standing in the middle of the creek and feeling icy-cold water rushing against your rubber waders at the knee level and yet not getting wet. We had a very charismatic guide and some enthusiastic volunteers and they took us through the history of the area, helped us identify interesting objects on the shores of the creek and explained the local ecology. What was most interesting to me was hearing our guide rhapsodise about rubbish like carpets and shopping trolleys being dumped in the river. He said most people don’t like to see that sort of thing in the river, but actually, because we have so altered the environment already, most of the ‘natural’ habitat of the critters in the creek has disappeared. Therefore, man-made things like carpets and trolleys can provide excellent substitute habitats. I thought this was a really interesting point, which I had been pondering a few months previously in regards to London and other big cities. With conservation we are constantly talking about preserving some kind of pristine ideal. In highly built up areas like London, this is obviously impossible. ‘Native’ animals have long since moved on or adapted. These places have a new urban ecosystem. We seem to ignore the fact that we have essentially destroyed whatever previous system existed in this spot to create our new urban paradise.

Me in Deptford Creek

Me in Deptford Creek

Anyway, enough ranting. The rest of the day was spent wandering through the beautiful Greenwich, Deptford and New Cross areas. I really love this area of London. It gets a bit of a bad rap, but I think it’s an utterly fascinating area – not yet gentrified or hipsterfied (though its fast approaching both), it’s also got the grittiness of an inner-city university hub due to Goldsmiths being in the area. It also has one of the most stunning views across the water to the city. Stunning because it’s an angle you never see – not on postcards, not when you’re wandering about trying to get places. Stunning because it takes you by surprise – you don’t realise you’re that close to the city and you don’t expect that view exactly where it appears. There are many cute pubs around (including one in which Shia leBeouf has now been beaten up – TWICE – holla to any Shia fans) with excellent cider and board game choices (essentially my only requirements for an English pub).

In March, I was taken for a wander from Finsbury Park to Highgate via an old railway line. If you love trains (I LOVE TRAINS), this is the walk for you. It is nice and flat, has beautiful views over North London, but best of all, you walk past various derelict, overgrown station platforms and under train archways. It’s almost like YOU ARE THE TRAIN. But, shhh…. Don’t tell too many people. There were already loads of people up there walking around and I don’t want it to get like… the rest of London. I’ll tell you guys ‘cause I like you. The walk ended with oh-so-pretty (but crazy over-priced) toasties, quiches and tea from a oh-so-twee Highgate cafe. We didn’t have enough time to go all the way to Alexander Palace (there’s a second, more secret part of the walk, so even more shhh….), but, next time, Gadget, next time. To top it all off I saw the statue of Dick Whittington’s cat and headed off to do a show at Victoria in the evening.

Part of the old railway walk (Parkland Walk). Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Parkland_Walk_-_2007.jpg

Part of the old railway walk (Parkland Walk). Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Parkland_Walk_-_2007.jpg

 

Dick Whittington's Cat

Dick Whittington’s Cat

The final lovely London day was a very large walk from Limehouse to Blackheath, where I thought I had never been. Blackheath had been pointed out to me when on the Finsbury Park/Highgate walk and as Blackheath in Australia is one of my favourite places I decided I had to see London’s Blackheath too. The walk down the Thames was wonderful, with many entertaining apartment blocks to mock along the way. There was a stop in Greenwich Park where we watched children turn tree branches into trampolines (more successful then you would at first think) and many beautiful old houses to ogle. Of course, after walking a good 3 hours to get there I realised, oh yeah, I had actually been to Blackheath before, which was a bit of a disappointment. But, never mind. We had a beautiful lunch in a little Italian deli and then waddled back again, stopping at my NEW FAVOURITE PUB IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (which I now cannot remember the name of – don’t worry I’ll google as soon as I get the internet UPDATE: Its the Traflagar Tavern!). It’s in Greenwich and it hangs out over the Thames and it is lovely big windows and it is SO NAUTICAL. And there is nothing I like more than a tastefully nautical setting.

As long as it’s not an actual boat – I mean, I get terrible seasickness.

So, yes, out of all the many lovely London days I have enjoyed over the past 4 months and even further back – these were some of my highlights. New places, new stories, new pubs, good food, lots of walking and wonderful company. It’s quite easy to keep me happy.

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