Moving home is right up there with bereavement, divorce and Liverpool beating Everton as an experience to leave you stressed and disorientated. Where and when is this place? Our flat at the edge of Prenzlauer Berg, a pretty central district of Berlin, is big, over a hundred square metres, so as big as the three floored house we just moved out of in South London, and with the rooms arranged off a corridor best described as a dog leg but with a flipper on the paw pointing backwards. So big that I don’t need to specifically make myself exercise anymore I just need to want to make a cup of tea, or have left my glasses in the bedroom or locked the cat in the…bugger…..
Germany is also in a different time zone of course. We’re an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time although it can also feel old fashioned in comparison to London. It’s much quieter, there’s much less traffic, even than Penge let alone Central London. Like the ’60s maybe before Mrs Thatcher fast forwarded us into our shiny, hard and bright neo business land. Bicycles are everywhere, people dress much less to impress and strangers seem to acknowledge each other much more often. Shops are closed on Sundays. There was even a discussion on the radio that seemed to be questioning whether advertising might actually be corrupting of more important social values. A debate we gave up in the 80’s in favour of Peter Yorke telling us how clever he and his advertising chums are. We Englanders tell ourselves that on the other hand we are ahead of the game in dynamism, entrepreneurial spirt and efficient customer service. And though I’ve never thought of myself as a proud englishman, I found myself thinking the other day whilst making a cup of tea, and getting my breath back from the long journey from the lounge, how even the tea bags here seemed to be slower to seep. Until Ramona pointed out we’d brought those ones with us from England. Seeking national pride in tea bag perforations, probably as little as a little Englander has ever got.
I have also to make the confession that I find the idea of German people a bit scary (in general terms of course, I mean I’ve married one, so obviously…..)This is absolutely the fault of bad World War 2 films from the 40s and 50s reshown endlessly through my childhood on tv in which all German characters spat perfect though bad tempered and rather hissy sounding English, apart from the words ‘schnell’ and ‘raus’ normally bawled at pale bewildered Tommies. Imagine my disquiet then when one of our local youngish Potsdam moving men started to tear a strip or two of an older colleague,a mature man who appeared to be of Turkish heritage, but was actually Russian. You could understand the frustration. They’d twisted up and down the corridor twice with a sofa and ended up again in the kitchen but ‘Respektvoll’, it was not. However, whilst my German in-laws agreed with me that this was no way to speak to a colleague, Ramona pointed out that this was how she was spoken to in many a bar and restaurant kitchen in London when she first arrived in England (although she did acknowledge her humiliators often had better hair). So that point is about being a vulnerable immigrant all over not being German.
Anyhow I must go and make another attempt at finding the cat.