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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

Do pigeons actually wee?

24 April 2007
I saw a pigeon having a wee on the road last weekend, when I was walking home from having my hair cut. And I thought, that’s worth blogging about! And then I remembered I had a blog. So here I am, back again.

I got my hair cut last Sunday. I went to the place I always go to, and I gave the same instructions I always give, which is “cut my hair, but make it look nice. Scruffy, but intentionally so. Give it some shape. Thanks.” Then I did the thing where the hairdresser explains the different steps that he’s going to take, and asks me if I agree with each step. I pretend to listen while watching whatever is going on behind me in the mirror and swinging my legs under the seat (because my feet never reach the ground in the hairdressers) and agree to whatever he says. Then I tune out and think about dogs for the next half hour.

When I came out of my reverie, I discovered that the hairdresser had decided this time to give me the most painfully up to date and fashionable haircut possible. I’ve got straight lines all over, very short at the back, a step up at the sides towards the front and a very short, extreme, blunt fringe. I’m not sure if I like it or not, because whenever I see someone on the tube with this haircut the phrase “tries too hard” springs unbidden into my mind and I dismiss them as a victim of group thinking.

Now, I’m starting to think that anyone with as up-to-date a haircut as I have may well just be daydreamers too, who haven’t learned to concentrate hard enough in the hairdressers. It’s difficult enough, being forced to make small talk with someone you don’t know, as well as put up with the hideously enforced intimacy of having someone else wash your hair. Worse than that, my hairdressers have started to give head massages half way through the hair washing process, so that when they put the conditioner in they suddenly start this slow massage, which, the first time it happened, felt to me like the kind of BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH! American school children are taught to avoid. It’s like waking up out of a drunken stupor at a party and finding a stranger massaging your bare feet. Just wrong.

Anyway! So with all of that, I remembered all of the lovely German things I still have to tell you about. So hopefully in the next couple of days you’ll find them all spilling out below.

New-kew-lur

13 April 2007
We had a list of things we wanted to do while in Berlin, having both spent endless lunch hours at work trawling through search engines and various tourist recommendation websites, as well as getting hints and tips from friends. It is absolutely astonishing that, until we turned up at the museum, completely coincidentally just in time to join the last jaunt around the nuclear bunker, that neither of us had heard of this tour.

Being in a nuclear bunker, an actual nuclear bunker, a nuclear bunker designed to withstand nuclear attack, not just something mocked up to look like a nuclear bunker but your actual nuclear bunker, a bunker that is still fully functional and would still be used in the (hopefully) unlikely event that Berlin is bombed, is quite a surreal experience.



The rows and rows and rows of beds can’t be described, and these photographs don’t do justice to the full horror that the people in the bunker would experience during their 2 week stay in the bunker. I can’t remember the stats and figures now, but thousands of people would be staying here, all sleeping four people piled on top of each other, surrounded by thick walls of concrete. The heat would be unbearable. The noise and the smell would also be overwhelming.

The atmosphere of the brief tour was also added to by the fact that our tour guide didn’t seem to speak any English words outside of the actual tour he was giving. If he was interrupted at all, or if he lost himself in the middle of a sentence, he would go back to the beginning of the sentence (or even the beginning of the paragraph he had obviously learned by rote) and would start again. His intonation was very factual and unemotional. It was jut brilliant, his under whelmed, almost bored sounding delivery set off quite nicely by the frankly awe-inspiring surroundings.



Television sets were also hung sparsely around the bunker, showing old 1950s films that were used to train soldiers in the event of nuclear war. One part showed a soldier being told to work out the direction of the wind, and then to shelter underneath a tree, to allow the nuclear fall out to harmlessly blow past him. Other sections were incredibly gruesome, with rotting corpses and bodies being blown to smithereens. I couldn’t decide, having seen it, if I would prefer to take my chances above ground or opt for what would possibly be a 2 week stay in an actual hell on earth. I think your survival instincts would have to be incredibly strong.

Doorway

12 April 2007
I noticed this doorway in The Story of Berlin museum, and the design seemed a bit ineffective and a bit brash and non-functional, and this seemed very strange to me, because the one thing you have to say about the Germans throughout history is that, time and again, they’re very good at functionality and organisation. But then I looked up at the top of it and realised what it was.



This might sound like a really stupid observation, seeing that swastikas are (quite obviously) a banned symbol in Germany, but because we spent so much time wandering about Berlin being butted on one side by constant reminders of the cold war and butted on the other side by constant reminders of the Second (and also First) World War, it’s quite surprising that this is the only one we saw relatively out of context. I didn’t expect to see it there. We had just been through what was really a quite affecting section of the museum which dealt, albeit briefly, with the years of Hitler’s rise to power. This section was something of a breathing space between the sharp facts and statistics laid out if you wanted to read them in mind-numbing detail, and moving on to the division of the city and the eventual building of the wall.

11 April 2007
We were walking along the street, on our way to meet up with the absolutely brilliant Brewers Berlin Tour (very highly recommended, by the way). We were both feeling a little under the weather, possibly very much due to the amount of Berliner beer we had drunk the night before in our New Favourite Place Ever, a bar which left nibbles on your table free of charge and kept refilling the tasty, salty snacks every 10 seconds. We had been sitting all evening underneath some scaffolding that was decorated in cute little fairylights and watching the trams pass up and down the street, talking about what we would do if one of us dumped the other person (I declared that I would probably move back to Dublin, and He Who Only... announced that he, too, would move to Dublin, if only to spite me).

Hangovers therefore pretty well established, we weren't really concentrating on what was going on around us as we walked up the street, and so I really had to double check if I had actually just seen what I'd actually just seen.

I nudged He Who Only... hard in the ribs and asked:

"Is that man wearing any trousers?"

He Who Only... checked carefully.

"No. No, he isn't."

I thought for a moment, and then asked my follow up question.

"Does he have any underwear on?"

He Who Only... again considered the evidence of his own eyes and verified:

"No. No, he doesn't."

"Right", I said. And we continued.

Brilliantly, about half an hour into our walking tour, just as we had reached Bebelplatz, as we were being told about the book burning that had taken place there (more of which soon!), a shouting erupted from behind us.

A German man was shouting, very loudly and with great emotion, about something or other. He was taking a variety of things out of a plastic bag, holding them up apparently to illustrate his various points, and holding forth for all to hear. What he was on about, I will never know, because (1) he was shouting in German, (2) he was holding up things like a lettuce, and then another lettuce, which made it difficult to concentrate and (3) it was the man from earlier, and he still had no pants on.

Importantly, I took a photo:


Closer details are, thankfully, not clearly visible in this photo. Your eyes have therefore been spared.

I wasn't joking about all the photos, by the way. Seriously. I've been uploading them all evening, while He Who Only... has been out shouting at men running about on the television, and will be boring you all to death with my tales of Germany over the next week or so.

But first, so you know what to expect (and so you can bugger off now and come back again next week when I will be back to complaining about the public transport in London and how difficult it is to be as pretty, talented and generous as I am), here are a selection of my favourite photos from last weekend:



This is the view that we saw every morning from the train station nearest to the hotel. We were staying almost in the centre of the city, but to the east side of the Berlin Wall - meaning (you'll have already worked out for yourself) that we were in East Berlin, or the former Soviet sector. More about the wall in due course (oh Dear Lord I'm a Berlin Wall expert these days). I do love this view though. You kind of grow very fond, in a I'm-A-Westener-Who-Really-Doesn't-Even-Begin-To-Appreciate-How-Lucky-I-Am kind of way, of the endless rows and rows of well organised high-rise housing that stretches out as far as the eye can see to the east. It appeals to the neat freak in me, those kinds of clean lines and regimentation.



This was taken outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche, which Berliners refer to as the "broken tooth" - you can find out why, if you're interested, here. I love this picture, because it was only after I took it that I even noticed the birds on the head of one of the statues, and the fact that it looks like the other one is trying to brush them off.



This was my favourite place in Berlin, somewhere we kind of came across by accident while trying to find somewhere to eat that served vegetarian food that wasn't covered in cheese or eggs. We originally thought it must be some kind of young person's dance club, but on closer inspection it's actually four floors of art galleries, and right at the top is a sleazy looking flea infested bar with holes in the walls rather than windows that look right across the neighbourhood. We ended up going back to Orienburger Strasse (the street this is on) a few times, and the discovery of this building, along with all of the graffiti covering the hallways inside it, is definitely one of the highlights of our visit for me.



This is simply my Favourite. Photo. Ever.

10 April 2007


I was in the Germany last weekend. He Who Only... came with me, and patiently stood in front of things while I took photographs:


It was nicely.

I took over 150 photos. Seriously. I'm going to post each and every one of them, and talk about them, and tell you all about the everything that's in there.

I must clarify at this point that we did not, in fact, against everyone's advice, go and see the polarbear baby (or "icebear" as the Germans called him, completely wrongly) Knut because (a) I don't like zoos because I think they're nasty places, and (b) He Who Only... wouldn't stop deliberately mispronouncing his name.

04 April 2007
You pack of absolute bastards.

I slave in front of the computer for about an entire HOUR of my precious young life, spewing out all sorts of details about my personal and professional life, my emotional and intellectual well being, and which post gets the only piece of reaction? The only response from an entirely apathetic and - dare I say it - pathetic reading public?

The one with my boyfriend's arse.

Well then.

I'm going to Germany tomorrow morning. Quite early tomorrow morning. And there's nothing any of you can do about.

We might be taking a lap top with us, in which case you can have the added joy of my blogging from Germany. We might not though, in which case you can all suck my tail pipe and I'll see you on Tuesday.

Many and varied thanks.

Sxx


Flight details:

Flight number:  BA0982
From: Heathrow (London) Terminal 1
To: Tegel (Berlin)
Depart: 05 Apr 2007 08:55
Arrive: 05 Apr 2007 11:40

02 April 2007
I claim absolutely no credit for this link. This is featured on the dooce.com site, which all of you should be reading every day anyway, because she is the best blogger to have ever graced your computer screen, and once you've had a look at this, you'll agree with me.

If you are a lady, go here, and then just keep on clicking "next" on the bottom right hand of the screen. Seriously. You will never be more pleased. I screamed at one point, in absolute delight.

(This is safe for work, but I'd do it somewhere no one else can see your monitor)

01 April 2007
Yesterday, being an absolute glutton for punishment, I spent most of the day sitting at the back of a lecture room in Berkbeck College (which is a very pretty building, which Virginia Wolfe once lived nearby - yes, that's right, look impressed) listening to a Welsh man talking about cognitive psychology. For most of the time, I understood what he was talking about, but every so often, particularly during the morning session, I'd suddenly realise that for the last five minutes or so I'd pretty much been asleep, but with my eyes open and still taking notes of what he was saying. My notebook is filled with sentences that may or may not make any sense at all.

Therefore I was incredibly pleased when lunchtime came and meant that I could (a) sit outside and not listen to anyone speaking and (b) fill my blood with as much caffeine as I could imbibe in 45 minutes in order to stay awake for the afternoon session.

I took my massive, massive coffee with me to Tavistock Square and sat in the garden. It was lovely and sunny, but very very windy, which pleased me no end, because that meant that no one but me, some tramps and a million pigeons were sitting in the Square at lunchtime. I read some of The Guardian Weekend Magazine, which reaffirmed my world view and the noticed that, on the bench opposite me, someone had tied a jam jar filled with water to one of the side of the bench:




In my dramatically over tired state, I thought for a moment that there would be an obvious reason for this, and that I was just too exhausted for the meaning to be clear to me. I also thought that I could see something swimming around in it, so I went to have a closer look:





There was nothing swimming in it. I wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed. I went back to my own bench, opposite the jam jar, and finished my massive coffee and read a bit more of The Guardian, which provided me with some left wing comfort in what is rapidly becoming a very confusing world for me.

Just as I was leaving to go get back to sitting and being slightly mystified (but very charmed) by what the lovely Welsh professor was trying to explain to me, one of the tramps that had been quietly sitting drinking something from a can came over and sat gently down beside the jam jar. He rustled around in his pockets for ages, and I sat very quietly, trying to pretend like I wasn't staring directly at him, fascinated by his next move.

Eventually, he took something out of his pocket, examined it in his hand for a moment, then very carefully dropped it into the jam jar without spilling a drop. Then he walked very slowly away, back to his other friends who were also having a liquid picnic on one of the benches further up the park.

I couldn't help myself. I had to look:



He had dropped 10p into the jam jar. For no discernible reason.

If anyone has any kind of explanation, either for the existence of the jam jar, the reason it was filled with water, the reason it was tied to a park bench, or the reason why the tramp gave it 10p, I'd be incredibly grateful.