I hadn’t realised quite how much in denial I was over this ‘landmark’ birthday of mine until I was recently getting ye olde monthly prescription for blood pressure tablets. I got out my card to pay, only to be told that my drugs are now free. Good grief, I was so shocked I had to sit down for a minute – to steady my blood pressure. I would willingly still be on the paying side of the fence given the choice!
Anyway, I said that all this took place a long time ago in ’68 and since none of the assembled throng had even heard the term secondary modern, our tutor felt obliged to explain ‘she means 1968, not 1868’!
Yesterday was our wedding anniversary so last night we went out for a meal at a local restaurant, just sufficiently enough out of town to warrant a taxi home. Our meal was excellent, the journey home however, not so. I might as well have not been there! The taxi was one of those hybrid affairs that charges itself as it goes along, via the magic of kinetic energy or some such wizardry. It was the taxi driver’s new toy. You would think that between them they had just fathered a child; the fuss, the adulation, the exuberance! And even once we arrived home, still they went on. Performance stats being spoken like words of love from the driver’s window as we made our way up our path to the front door. Who cares if it does 62.37 miles to the gallon, we only wanted a lift up the bloody road. Please go away now.
I went to Berlin with the University on a field trip, and the itinerary most definitely bears that out, including as it did, lectures at Humboldt University where some of the founding fathers of sociology were taught. Accommodation was in a dorm style ‘loft’ hotel which, whilst all very jolly for my student peers, is no longer my idea of a fun night in. Whilst they planned their midnight feasts by torch light, Famous Five style, I planned to be picnicking alone.
none of the assembled throng had heard the term secondary modern, our tutor felt obliged to explain ‘she means 1968, not 1868’!
Our hostel was some distance away from the U-Bahn and involved a thirty five to forty minute walk at a brisk pace, to get there. I had no idea Berlin was so spread out; there was a similar walk at the other end to reach our destination. We had a guided tour of ‘Destroyed Diversity’ at the German Historical Museum, then walked some distance to find lunch and then reconvened for a walk to another museum, this time to see an exhibit of photos by Margaret Bourke White at Martin-Gropius-Bau. Fascinating photography, our tour guide was totally smitten and his knowledge extensive. He had obviously briefed himself well about our sociology course. Consequently it was very late when we were finally set free.
I had bought a new waterproof jacket for the trip, not realising that it wasn’t ‘breathable’, and as a result the inside of it was constantly wet from perspiration that my lack of fitness and walking at Mach 3 generated. This meant that my clothes were water logged most of the time and I was constantly frozen! The temperature was usually around -4ᴼ with several inches of snow on the ground, making walking at speed all the more hazardous than it might otherwise have been for the terminally unfit and infirm in our party, i.e. me!
Once we were dismissed for the day we went in search of a meal, and after much deliberation and many miles later, settled upon a lovely little restaurant with checked red table cloths and candles on the tables, but no licence! We must have picked the only restaurant in Berlin that was dry. I wanted to get dry too and had to turn my jacket inside out when we got inside to allow the water to evaporate. Anyway the place was lovely and the owners Moritanian.
I am proud to say I redeemed myself and saved the day. We spoke no German, they no English. One of our party was Turkish but sadly that didn’t help, and someone else could speak Russian but that was no good either. I tried a bit of French in desperation (I was freakin' starving … actually because Squeamish Kate doesn’t like that term since I wasn’t starving, I shall use the more acceptable fucking ravenous) and bingo we could converse! We had a great time. The proprietor said he would make us a melange of things instead of us choosing anything specific from the menu, and we sat down to a delicious meal washed down with beer from the off licence up the road. It was just perfect and they were delightful people.
I would like to go to Berlin again, but at my own pace. We saw and did so much; lectures at the Humboldt University, museums and galleries like the Humboldt Box (former site of the Palast der Republik), and the Jewish Museum (take tissues and allow at least 5 hours to look around), plus the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate, the East Wall museum and the Telecommunications tower. We had a group dinner one night, we went for cocktails on another and then to a beer hall on another night.
The hostel was not the most restful of places, with people partying in the corridors till the early hours. I was able to exact revenge by having to get up early but the novelty soon wore off as I was too tired to stomp around much, and on the last day I was awoken by the cleaner knocking on my door and then letting himself into my room! Apparently I should have checked out at 10am, and it was now 11.30am. I was still asleep because the revellers had kept me awake until gone 3 in the morning. I hadn’t even packed so much as a pair of socks as I had fallen into bed in a coma the night before.
Talk about blind panic, but then I thought well the coach doesn’t come for us in until 2pm so what can they do; I tried to remain calm whilst throwing everything into my case and desperately trying to remember the code for the safe that was guarding my passport and which I only got right on the third and final attempt allowed. Most of the others had gone for yet another bloody walk so in a way I was glad to have a legitimate excuse not to join them, though it did mean I missed breakfast! A small price to pay in my humble opinion.