My four part adventures as to what went on in Berlin.

Part 1 – Why?

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It’s the fear of coming out of my comfort zone; the cold, empirical sense of dread that actually made me think of cancelling this weekend and staying in my well defined sense of safety. It’s a gnawing sort of fear, not the fear of the new per se but more the fear of being out of control so utterly. With Paris, I was with Lee, I’d been there before so I know what to have expected. Berlin; I might have lived in Germany for eight years but back then, Berlin was nestled behind the Iron Curtain. The capital was Bonn, a fairly sleepy little city not unlike Weimar was all those years ago when the first Republic was set up in the ashes of the First World War.

Today though folks, I’m on my own – albeit with the usual iPhone, iPad, 3DS combo which pretty much follow me everywhere and put me in mind of 2000ADs Rogue Trooper. A strange feeling of anxiety and perverse pleasure take turns in blanketing my psyche. Small wonder then that I have generally avoided travelling and holidaying in the past. Oh I grant you there were holidays as a child but growing up as an army brat in Germany, they were always back to England to see relatives. Even that one time we went to Italy, it was to see Great Uncle Frank and cousin Rosario in Napoli.

Nope, holidays were really a stranger to me, at least in the sense that most people think of them. Holidays were to us at least, a chance to catch up and go at your own pace in familiar surroundings. That’s a good part of the reason whenever I elect to take some time off, it’s to stay at home and trickle charge up my energy levels. They other part is because I spunked money up the wall like a drunken sailor on his first shore leave during my early 20s.

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Just changed at Holborn from Central to Piccadilly. Toyed with the idea of going to Ealing Broadway then back but that same gnawing fear of somehow missing my check in – not that is especially likely but when in doubt, fear the worst (or so my brain somehow defaults to) – direct me to stick with the familiar.

I hate to sound like a snob but so many people who ride public transport aren’t exactly going to be winning beauty contests. I know, that’s so grossly unfair and I think we should take a moment to thank these people for working and living antisocial hours so that the rest of us can keep normal hours. Though a couple of them could stand to run a brush or comb through their hair. And perhaps not drool so much.

Interesting thing about travelling on the tube this early in the morning on a Saturday, I think the commuters miss not having any sort of news paper to gawp at. They’re forced to pretend not to look at each other or examine their fingernails as if it were the first time their eyes had seen such things. Some of the smarter people have brought books with them – no Kindles and no iPads seen yet. And people have taken an unhealthy interest in what I’m writing as its something that breaks with pre-7am convention.

I had thought to bring my moleskin notebook that Stephen bought me on my birthday. I’d mentally planned that as a travelogue notebook but I dithered all last night when finalising packing and didn’t think to snatch it off my desk this morning. Well, not until I’d closed the front door behind me and began the walk down the cold, dark and foggy road. I tried that before when I went to New York but beyond writing on the flight there as I was so bored (the films weren’t that inspiring), I never kept it up. At least with this device, it’s multi purpose and ill be relying on it heavily or at least I will once I can download a guidebook from iTunes Store.

Some English (and I say English rather than British as its endemic to this part of the Uk) travellers do make me laugh. There’s a smattering of them on the tube with their valises made from shiny synthetic leather, wearing the neo-uniform for Brit-travellers. For men, a blazer must be worn but no matter how cold it is, M&S overcoats must be carried. Shoes must be formal, trousers beige and the jumper must be a colour that clashes horribly with the rest of the ensemble. Think sixth form geek and you’re pretty much there.  Travelling is an _event_ for these people rather than a conveyance, a means to an end. The women however, black. Black, black and more black. It’s like a funeral and now that the Piccadilly line train has reached Hammersmith where most workers have cleared out, Heathrow bound traffic is in the majority.

So anyway, here I am on the train, listening to my ‘Poltern’ list on my iPhone – getting into the spirit already or at least trying to assuage my fears – and it hits me, I still haven’t the faintest idea what I want to do in Berlin. Granted, that’s a gross oversimplification but I think that what I do want to is – see the Brandenberg Gate at the very least, see if I can source supplies for my birthday, buy some foodstuffs I can’t ordinarily get a hold of, track down those sweets, see if I can remember enough German to pass of as a native at least once and get a new shoulder bag or rucksack. But in what order should that be carried out?

The gag is that today’s weather should be fine, at least as fine as late November can promise. But there’ll be rain from tomorrow evening and intermittently on Monday so an umbrella will almost certainly be essential. Another bloody expense! I figure that Shopping can be today, touristy stuff tomorrow, more shopping and the Xmas market on Monday. Returning home is 1940 on Monday so ill have enough time to potter around and snatch up what’s needed.

Although not completely gone away, the lip infection which started out as your run of the mill cold sore has almost died though not healed enough for me to dispense with cream or Vaseline to keep things moist and avoid constantly licking them. Part of me can’t help but feel that if I’d kept to my normal sort of diet and not changed it, it would have gone away faster. But for as long as I can recall, I’ve been having cold sore issues with them going horribly bad. I am a vain person and the thought of going on holiday with a blemish just feels unnatural.

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At Boston Manor, seven stops from Heathrow Terminal 5 – at least ill get to see what all the fuss was about as I’m heading out on British Airways. Back when I was working in Private Office, Terminal 5 had largely died down as a political fuss but the were still the odd flare ups from correspondents and Nimbys. I wasn’t convinced by the arguments from either side but its there now although the third runway won’t be, at least for the foreseeable future.

Although I promised myself I wouldn’t, I still managed a couple of crumpets this morning, I thought that getting something at the airport would bear more sensible. But then the Doctor warned me I’d behaving a heart attack at their prices so I thought  prudence was in order. There’ll be snacks on the plane to sustain, the one good thing about flying with a non-budget airline. No coffee thought, there wasn’t time for that. I am looking forward to overdosing on caffeine again now that I can.

The last time I was out this way was last year when at Kuls house for lunch with Sue and Laura. West London reminds me of Hendon – large, expensive houses in a suburban setting but with hints at a past which was very working class rather than middle class like these days. Did I mention that we were supposed to be at Laura’s house yesterday to have hold of the baby? Despite Mr Bassi saying he was off on jury service, I saw the Reubenesque one in the office on Thursday…he could have fricking well said. No matter, I enjoyed my lie in yesterday and a day of just Joe.

Kinda running out of steam at the moment, we are about to descend into the Heathrow Tunnels so I’m going to put the iPad away for now, get to the station and deal with the bureaucracy.

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Checked in, bags dropped, now enjoying a coffee in Neros before I head through security. At least I’m not testing security so I don’t have to worry about not wearing any underwear.

I want to describe Terminal 5 without using the word cathedral or cavernous but m lexicon is failing me. The check in hall is gargantuan, bigger than Canary Wharf which is what I immediately thought of when arriving. I would imagine that at during the summer, this place can be somewhat intimidating given the potential for a micro-climate to form and angry passengers roaming the terminals.

Friendly staff thus far though, haven’t had cause to pick any fault and complaining is the new national pastime. The opportunity to whip off ones coat for five minutes was too much to resist.  And the ‘girls’ are out in full force here as one might expect. Furtive glances, sly asides, outright flirtation – still got it. Heh.

The Doctor was correct though, £9.95 for a full English breakfast in the pub. Even the Italian joint was pricy just for fruit salad with yoghurt. I know these places have a licence to print money hence the extortionate rents paid on concession stands but there’s such a thing as a fleece too far. Bought BBC Focus in Smiths as I haven’t picked up a copy in a couple of months. To be honest, I’m not fussed about magazines any more which is ironic considering that was one of the reasons I lusted after an iPad for so long.

I’m a good flier, I just loathe taking off because if anything is going to go wrong – it’s then. Already have a few butterflies kicking about in there. When I went to New York all those years ago, I felt as if I were going to had some sort of seizure and that was seven months before the events of 9/11. It’s an irrational fear but we all have our nuances and idiosyncrasies.

There’s also an overwhelming urge to phone people. Despite the time, I want to broadcast “I’m at Heathrow, I’m about to get on a plane, I’m leaving the country”. It’s curious, normally I’m less willing to disclose my plans, at least verbally though writing as you’ll know if you’ve read anything of mine before, I tend to ramble as I write. The guys at work have been grilling me constantly – probably as they can’t believe someone can just take off without any sort of plan. But spontaneity is what I do best.

A complete lie to be sure. I always have a plan, I’m just good at faking it, except when it comes to honesty unless in trouble. I guess that’s the dualism of being a Pisces, or an ENTP. Ah well, I suppose I should brave security. More on the plane – why I feel the need to pretend that you the reader are here with me is logic-fail thou it does set a little context. Dunno – are you buying it? Is it there to be bought?

And should I visit the prayer room as I’ve always been curious to see what one looks like?

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Made it through security, no blinking lights though I did see some DfT colleagues as I was going through security. I don’t think they were holiday making. Gate isn’t open until 0925 so have time to kill. Maybe I’ll find somewhere that sells video games and buy the new Professor Layton game. Haven’t gotten any Streetpass hits either – disappointing.

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At the gate having been forced to pass all sorts of shops which sell fabulously expensive items. But temptation must be fought – at worlddutyfree, they sell all sorts of sweet packs which you otherwise cannot obtain here in the UK although the confections themselves are as common as pigeons. The greedy sod in me wanted to buy pretty much everything and is making mental notes to swing by on the way back.   I’m trusting that the pragmatist in me is going to stick with the Liebkuchen-type-plan.

The fog has somewhat lifted although visibility is somewhat reduced. Still I have a nice view of planes taking off and landing from my vantage point. Ah, boarding. Apparently the flight is “extremely busy” (wonderful) which I dare say will mean only one thing… *looks around suspiciously* yup, there are several babies and under fives going to be on this flight. Bastard. I’m not going to do the English thing, if ay of them misbehave, I will go straight for the parents. Not sure why sedatives aren’t available at the gate.

I’d say my passengers are more British than German with a couple of Americans doing their best to be discreet, kinda like Foghorn Leghorn trying to whisper really. There’s a small knot I’d say fifteen metres away and I can still hear them clearly despite the hushed voices. It’s like being on a bus in Stratford, lots of crap being spoken, whatever the stage below “small talk” is. You have to hand it to the US public school system, if nothing else they do teach their kids how to speak up. Now, if they could do something about that quotation intonent, they’d really be on to a winner.

They’re pushing it, it’s 0950, the flight is supposed to be busy and we aren’t boarding yet. Typische. My fellow passengers are getting twitchy, legs are vibrating, glances are getting more acute and chocolate bars are being hastily munched through. There’s definitely a tension building up.  I’m a betting man, I’ll say it’s the freak on my left with all the man-jewellery who snaps first. However, I have the house edge, I’ve observed that he’s been going through the energy drinks.

Question – do they have Movember in Germany or is it just the mullets?

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On the plane, been so for about an hour. When they said the flight was busy, boy were they not kidding. I’ve only seen three empty seats, two next to some lucky cow at the back of the aircraft. Take off wasn’t too bad in the end, the ascent wasn’t as steep as the last time though I was white knuckled from grasping the seat too hard. It hadn’t occurred to me that aeroplanes these days could be so devoid of creature comforts like tvs in the headrests. It was my anticipation that there would be all sorts of activities but alas no, it’s iPad only for Joe. Everything else – including my wallet I hesitate to say – is stashed in the overhead compartment.

According to the map, we are currently somewhere near Hanover, where Rat Boy was born. Münster was passed by about ten minutes ago. If I had a window seat, I would have liked to have gawped down at anything though visibility is still up the  wall. At least the sun is bright up here unlike at ground level.

Having a travel companion would have been nice and I did think of asking the Doctor but this trip is one I wanted to make by myself. Not because I want to do all sorts of depraved things but rather it is a homecoming of sorts and is rather private. Back at boarding school, I kinda got choked up every time the end of term approached as it meant I could return to the one place I felt safe – my room. That’s exactly how I’m feeling now, that nervous anticipation and yet comfortable in the extreme.

Whoa – turbulence. The plane is bobbing up and down like a whore giving a blow-job. Interestingly enough, iTunes has decided to spit out “Battle of Yavin” and were at the Death Star trench run section. I actually feel like I’m in Luke’s Xwing making the journey to the exhaust port. These little coincidences really do make life interesting at times and its even enough to bring a grin to the lips. Apparently we are going to be landing early as the runway designation has been changed, just fifteen minutes to go. I think I’m going to have to stop writing now as as soon as we’ve landed, I’m going to need to get up and snatch my bag from the overhead compartment.

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