Hmm. Hmm indeed!

Life is challenging. I’ve come to Berlin with a lot in mind to do, and, fundamentally, those things are getting done. Mostly life changes but a couple of projects as well. It’s coming off, they’re all coming off. It’s all about how one copes with things, how one chooses to deal with things, to perceive things, what one is willing to put up with and the point at which one must realise, ‘no, enough time wasting. We need a decision, an emphatically final decision, now.’

One such decision has been made re my house. Another may be pending.

Otherwise though, these not inconsiderable distractions have been … dealt with, over the past few weeks.


There’s a very great deal to be said by continually appraising only one’s posture, chin up, back straight, chest out, walk tall and look ahead. To Hell with them, you have your own plans.



Just been to Berlin Stadtmuseum, specifically the Palace where they have a great exhibition of Berlin as depicted through the centuries by painters, certainly the top floor has lush Canaletto-like paintings with all sorts of interesting takes on the city, what needed to be depicted due to royal patrons and the like.

I went as a celebration and reward for hitting 28 days of OYNB, 14 days of no coffee, 46 days of meditation. These two pictures struck me as reflective of my life right now, bursting with energy, colour, dynamism, much out of control, yet also under construction, handsome and planned and developing in determined phases. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition as well as oddly symbiotic duality of forces, and not to sound too spiritual about it, but I’ve been thinking June would deliver some kind of miracle, is the inspiration I felt there what I seek? Will I take up drawing again, and then some?

By way of contrast I thought of my unstable, soon-to-be-ex housemate:

Yes, the horrors of life in Chicago that have left her traumatised, borderline, if not bipolar, horrors she sought to escape through yoga, before seeking to escape in Berlin, only to realise those horrors were scarred upon her soul and psyche – there could be no escape!

There you can see her walking riverside with her imaginery boyfriend, the colours faded and dull in a lifeless landscape, the Spree serving only as a well for her to weep into before she decides to hurl herself bodily into its rushing grey depths.

And she does – only! Upon the very moment her body vaulted the handrail and her hand let go, regret coarsed through her – ‘NOOOOOOO!’ she screamed within, the shock of what she’d done smashed into her by the freezing shock of the water. She plummets down, swirling, sucked down towards the bed, as her mind and body kick in, ‘NO!’ she cries again within, her voice a bawling blub-blub of bubbles, ‘life is too precious to discard in so wanton a way, I must survive, if I cannot live for myself, I must live for others!’

And so she kicks and kicks again though still down she goes, and then she impacts something on the river bed, with excruciating pain, the last of her breath blasts out of her, as she wrestles to detach from this ‘thing’ that bites into her legs and stabs at her hands. What is it? No no her mind rapidly devoid of oxygen panics, not a bed of nails? Dropped in by some fakir? The bitter irony, a fakir who’d sought the same spiritual solace she had through the Eastern exercises of yoga and such, agh … but no.

She was impaled upon the rusted remains of a shopping trolley, it too a victim of the throwaway consumerism it had so enabled, and now she too, the American, a victim of it as she’d come so far in body and soul to escape the soulless consumerism of her homeland.

Irony upon irony. Woman who sought life and love found her death upon a bed of shopping trolley nails. And the aquatic archaeologist could only observe decades later, ‘look what crap you can get from the supermarket’.

High Noon

Lots of interesting conflicts:

Saturday was the duel with Sideshow Bob’s sister. All calm since then, eerily so. We’re studiously avoiding one another. Ah well.

Monday was taut, though. The agitation of the above compressed in all sorts of places, and by late afternoon I was really quite jangled when I came across a pretty bad road crash next to Boddin Strasse U-Bahnhof. We all wondered at first if this VW 4×4 that was rammed side on at a shitty casino, whether it was one of those ramming attacks, but I think the driver tried a macho attempt to take the lights and the corner at too great speed and fucked it up.

A few minutes later I got into a stand-off with a guy whose engine was burning out, I filmed this massive acrid cloud of exhaust and he wasn’t happy, demanding I delete it, but as he was aggressive I found myself first having to stand my ground and not delete it, arguing in bad German that I didn’t have to. Eventually he asked only I don’t show the number plate, and I said fine, and I wouldn’t put it on the net. In the end I realised bloke’s car has blown up and some tyke tourist comes filming it for which he might get an emissions’ fine as well, does he need the aggro? So I deleted it and left a note on on the car to say sorry.

Tuesday, I was strolling down Boddin Strasse and heard this chap on his phone, very distinctive voice, like Michael York, and he was talking English. Off he went and I wondered whether … as an actor I thought ‘this guy has a good voice, I’d like to hear it on the radio, on an ad, or something, but should I say something?’ … then I ran 30 yards to catch him and told him, and he was bemused, but a nice lad and found out he’s from Catford and is a lighting technician and has done extra work, so … I don’t know, could be a total nothing but then if you think something and say something, could it change a life, for the better, in ways unforeseen? Why not?

Then this morning, at the fruit and veg stall, this big lad came up, bit leary in a way, and put a paw of bananas in his bag and looked like he was walking off, so I said ‘hey, what you doing?’ and he looked confused, then said ‘I’m getting other stuff’. Which he did. At the counter I laughed and said sorry for accusing you of shoplifting, and he smiled and said ‘nah no problem’.

Where am I going with all this? Not sure, but I feel so much bolder. I’m not trying to create conflict I think, but … things happen. Anyway: Day 22 OYNB, feeling great. Day 8, no coffee (but on Club Mate) but so what? Feeling great. Getting regular swim / FIIT / skipping. Not as regular as I’d like or should be on the yoga … and I’ve had a breakthrough on the singing but I’m not capitalising on it like I should. I also know I need to work on nutrition because I’m too easily loading up on kebabs. Actually breakfast and lunch are great, but after that it’s total shit. So if I can combine a regimen adding some light weight lifting exercises and a low-fat diet that won’t leave me knocked out …

A few weeks left to finish the novel. Well – I’m not leaving til it’s done, but it’ll be done.

The Big Game is going on and I’m winning it.

That’s what matters right now.

*Note also: My pa emailed me the other day to ask what was going on in my world, what with a fair bit of flux in the last couple of years, and radical decisions, a lot of hither and thither in all. ‘not that I’d want to interfere on any level!’, quothe he. Which naturally to me I think ‘well you are,’ and get irked about it, and the invite to go see him and R seems more like a summons, and one thinks, seriously, I’m old enough to make my own decisions and create / destroy things in my own time. And we had a chat on the phone anyway and as I’d suspected there were a few bits he didn’t get, because his hearing’s gone, and you know because there are these long pauses sometimes and then the comment, ‘I didn’t quite get that, my hearing’s very bad you know / my hearing aid’s not in / I’m quite deaf these days.’ All adds to the frustration of the exercise, so to speak.

Then it struck me the other day, he’s in his mid-70s, and for his ailments he’s still so strong in mind that he and R are running this College of Real Farming, and hosting the annual conference, and gaining interest from China with whom he was talking to academics later the day we spoke. And for all that he has time to wonder how his son is doing. An ageing man nonetheless, whose mind is very much there, but his physical abilities are fading. I mean, these days being elderly is becoming more and more an exercise in becoming a cyborg, but he’s elderly. Technically, disabled.

And yet childish pride makes me begrudge the fact that he cares. *Hmmph!* Think I better book a flight to Oxford …



Just out on Tempelhof, an amazing day, stunning, like so many have been of late. And it’s not even June yet, not for more than a week.

I did 110 sit ups, 110 of those round sit up things, skipped for several minutes and 110 press ups, and it felt great, but what felt greatest was suddenly feeling … alive, free, tapping into the great blue sky and its wonderful cloudscapes and the grass and the warmth off the tarmac and the breeze, and I felt alive in a way I’ve not felt in a long time, if ever, this connectivity if that’s what it is.

Now: It’s day 21 of my umpteenth attempt at OYNB, but I’ve never done it so committed before, and this is the second longest I’ve got (I think?), and marks the 66th day with only three slips in that time. It’s also the seventh day of no coffee. To be honest, I’ve had a couple of bottles of Club Mate a day, which tastes a bit like tobacco, and it has caffeine in it too, but it’s not having the high, the crash, the anger at all of the coffee, and it’s also hydrating as it comes in half litres and not tiny shots.



Monetarist maniac

Trump’s all about the ratings. That’s it, that’s his benchmark, his gauge for success.


It’s like a throwback to the maniacal simplicity of Friedman’s monetarist policy, where righties believed the government could only but still should exercise control over the economy through the levers of interest rates. That was it, no other mechanism was required, nor should it be.

Trump is of similarly simplistic a mind, ironically ‘interest rates’ has a new meaning in the reality TV era.


Pankow …

I’m in Berlin, just finished one mini biography and another is nearly done.

Where we live is a middle-class, leafy suburb in northern Berlin, it’s more like a village, with a square and local-ish shops, but our landlord Heinz to him there’s a very enclosed feeling, a sense that he and his house are being ‘watched’, and disapproved of. Housemate has said the same, that Heinz is seen as a ‘maverick’ in the neighbourhood. To us he’s an updstanding guy, brought up in the GDR, doesn’t really drink, doesn’t smoke, never done drugs, can remember the two times in his life he got pissed, is a middle-managering engineer at BMW, has a family in another house. Couldn’t be more normal. But he was telling me re smoking, and drinking, at school there were two halves to the class, the smokers and drinkers and the others, like him, and he was good at doing his own thing, not succumbing to peer pressure at all. On the face of it you’d think great, that’s the kind of clean-living aesthete you’d want in the GDR. But actually no. The boozers and smokers are clubbable, and that’s what power is about. Tenets like living clean and pure go so far, but the regime like any other, the ‘party’ like any other, functions not on its ability to be pure but to keep itself collectively safe and allow for its members to indulge in vice. Zealots can only get so far. Remember Fiedler in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold or Tom Courtenay’s character in Dr. Zhivago. They’re great for going and making hell for the non-believers, for whipping people into line, but you don’t want them doing the same in and among the party powerful.

When touring through Nazi Germany in the immediate aftermath of the war, picking through the rubble, through the pretty little towns of wooden cross-beam houses that the Russian soldiers coudln’t understand why the inhabitants would leave and come 1,000 miles to destroy the shacks they lived in … When the war was over and the papers were burned and the lapel pins were binned, how did one know who the petty town Nazis were? Because they were fat.

Heinz would become a marked man because he stood alone. Neither a zealot nor a ‘partying’ party hack. He could be the individual, and there’s no such thing in the GDR, no outside morals allowed. But by that he endangers himself because he is alone, and can become the target for all sorts of lies, and frustrations. And like he was from the GDR and lived in Pankow, so his neighbours are ex-GDR … maybe the worst combination of middle-class suburban conformists with the history and experience of the truly devastating power of gossip and targeting people because they dare to stand not even against, but apart …

(Funnily enough, DARPA when planning out super surveillance systems in the mid-00s, were more interested in the straight-laced side-parting white men than the drop outs, Muslims et al. The picket fencers were all the more suspicious for their apparent zealotry of their adherence. Was that just a cover for something else?’ Incredibly, then, the most slavishly, unwittingly loyal to the creed of white Christian low-tax gun-toting nuclear families were of the greatest suspicion …. )

I digress. I’ll go on a loop. I’m here in Berlin writing my novel about selling ice-cream in Chicago. There’s a scene in it where the protagonist is out and comes across a young girl who wants an ice-cream and she has a parakeet on her finger. How come the bird is so tame, asks the vendor. Because its wings have been clipped, she said. Of all the things a bird can do, must do, it must be able to fly. And someone chose to make a dollar by denying it that very thing. It wasn’t the child’s fault so much … but that poor, poor bird. Why would anyone maim a bird so?

Then I thought of To Kill A Mockingbird, and the rape in that, where Atticus in his defence of Tom Robinson, not only makes it clear that Tom couldn’t have beaten and raped Mayella, but that her father very likely did. Mayella made a pass at Tom which he rejected (interestingly do we presume this to be true because we perceive Tom as the black man to be the victim, or greater victim, and thereby telling the truth more than she as a rape victim, as a woman? But we know she was raped … By her dad – possibly out of jealousy for her feelings for Tom, the disgust of it, then Tom must be punished for that?). The point being there is a crime for which there is punishment, and Tom is the one to take the fall, because he’s black. And that’s what blacks are there for, to cop punishment for the crimes of the whites. It’s not so much a racism that says ‘he must have done it because he’s black, and we’ll believe that in the face of all incontrovertible evidence’, it’s racism that says ‘even if this guy had died 10 years ago we’re going to lynch his skeleton because we cannot contemplate a white man being punished for a white man’s crimes, not if there’s a black guy to take the fall. That’s what the blacks are for …’

So potently ‘moral’ a society, full of sinners, bound and flagellated in body and soul even for what they might think of doing … someone’s going to have to take the punishment, but not them.


Someone said as such on Twitter…

Is that the role Heinz fills for his neighbours?