Archive for the ‘Strange things’ Category

I’ve been following with interest (well, okay, let’s not go crazy) the success of Northern Irish singer Eoghan Quigg on The X-Factor. First of all, the show is quite entertaining – usually at the beginning of the audition process when it’s like the monsters from The Hills Have Eyes turn out to put on their best show – but people take it far too seriously. Of course it is upsetting to be rejected, but it’s so strange that people rely so heavily on talent shows that they think their entire career and future rest upon whether they are sent through to the next round or not. Anyway – Eoghan has already courted controversy for his decision to sing on the Hero single, dedicated to British soldiers. Eoghan has not claimed to hold any political views, but plays for a hurling team named for the hunger striker Kevin Lynch, and his family have stated that they are republicans. Apparently, a series of sinister threats have been made from hardline republican groups, and there has been much clamour from those stating that Eoghan should not contribute any support to the British army. This is a difficult issue; Eoghan’s parents claim that he has no political leanings, but he would surely know the significance of Lynch’s name, and is not so young that he can be entirely ignorant of the Troubles. It is indicative of the rifts still present in Northern Irish society that it is almost impossible for anyone to emerge from it without being expected to have political leanings or assocations. Whilst it is an excellent development that a Northern Irish star might emerge with no such stated leanings, it seems that it’s not going to be Quigg.

HollyjervisMeanwhile, Holly Jervis, the terrifying, abysmal holiday camp singer with the giant mouth which Simon said was like ‘looking into a cave’, refuses to answer producers’ calls. And Emma Chawner, who became a ‘star’ after her atrocious performance of ‘My Heart Will Go On’, is living in a car after her entire family has been evicted due to her appalling singing. Only in Britain can someone be ‘famous’ for being rubbish at something. (See, for instance, Maureen from Driving School, Jade Goody, etc…)


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It’s a rainy, dark evening here; the pavements are slick with fallen leaves, and the streetlamps blur through the mist. I take out two members of the Pack; neither of them want to walk out in the rain, but it momentarily stops the new ones from eating sponges or doing giant Mr Hankey-style poos on the kitchen floor. It is drizzly, foggy and slippery. Walking, through the slush of foliage, is difficult and treacherous.

So WHY THE FR*G is the pavement completely crawling with joggers? At least ten passed us during our brief toilet stop; almost all of whom were dressed completely in black, with no reflectors, so they swished out of the darkness like wraiths. It is hard enough to walk on a night like this. Why would anyone be so masochistic?

To be honest, I just don’t understand the lure of jogging. I can see that it makes a lot more sense than running on a treadmill, but there cannot be anything enjoyable about it. Baudrillard stated: ‘Nothing evokes the end of the world more than a man running straight ahead… Do not stop him. He will either hit you or simply carry on dancing around in front of you like a man possessed.’ …makes a lot of sense. Plus, there is severe risk of jogger’s nipple. But then, I am pretty excited about getting my Wii Fit board, and surely there is nothing more apocalyptic than doing virtual exercise in a tiny space in front of the TV. What do you think, which signifies the end of the world more?

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Oh the cananity

Now, not that I want this blog just to be about everything which bewilders / annoys me about people.. there isn’t enough space on the internet (it’s running out of room you know). Plus, I am extremely happy at the moment because two new dogs have joined our little pack! Both rescue dogs from Greece; one is a fat little Pointer cross of some sort, and the other is a little black puppy of indeterminate breed. Both of them are pure class.. pictures to follow!

However – although I am very happy – I really have to write about my annoyance at the ‘lady who cleans the yard of our apartment block’. I don’t know what else to call her. I can’t call her ‘cleaning lady’ or ‘maintenance person’ because neither of those terms would be remotely accurate. All that she does is sweep the yard once a week, and leave all the sweepings in a corner where they are instantly blown back all over the place by the prevailing winds from Russia. Oh and also she sometimes mops the yard (?) in a very erratic fashion, and then uses the same mop on the windows. Anyway; she hates us.

Let me explain. Our (first) dog can sometimes get a little irritated by people in ‘her’ territory; i.e. people walking past the apartment making a bit too much noise – we live on the ground floor, facing the yard. She also wasn’t too keen on visitors in the apartment, at first, and would show her annoyance by making a loud warbly growly noise – a bit like if Shirley Bassey and Barry White had a canine lovechild. She’s getting better now, but not every visitor has the time for her ‘gentle introduction’ phase – so we put her in another room sometimes if she’s warbling too much. Well, we had to do this when a couple of guys turned up to fit the new washing machine. (The old one was an ancient toploader with a manual which informed us that ‘WOMEN OF FIFTY LANDS SAY YES TO THE EFFICIENCY’.)

Anyway, the guys are fitting the washing machine, the dog barks for about 1-2 minutes. Yes, I know it’s annoying – I’m sorry. We’re working on it. She is a rescue dog who has had no previous training.. and yes I know that doesn’t mean other people should have to suffer her. But come on, a bit of barking.. What absolutely does not help was the fact that IMMEDIATELY the workmen leave, the ‘cleaning lady’ starts pounding on our door. The dog is just about calm, realising they’re gone, and suddenly.. BOOM BOOM BOOM and she’s yowling again. So, narrioch asks whoever is outside to wait for a moment. No, obviously this is crucially important – BOOM BOOM BOOM. Narrioch hops outside and this lady is standing there, yelling about how the dog was barking and how it was disturbing everyone. Narrioch apologises but the lady won’t go.. she changes tack and starts shouting about how she had cleaned the yard that morning and we had ruined it by having our washing machine fitted. Now, about four miniscule pieces of polystyrene were visible on the ground just outside our apartment, which must have fallen off the packaging for the new machine. Well.. okay. Clearly we would have cleaned those up as soon as we had become aware of them, but the old washing machine was still warm in its bed and the guys had left about 2 minutes before. Again, narrioch apologises, but that’s not good enough – now she wants to know whether we own the apartment or rent it, and what happened to the previous occupant. SHE’S IN THE CELLAR… I have no idea, she moved out about a year ago, were we supposed to get permission from you before we moved in? Anyway – she wandered off shouting incoherently and since then she has amused herself by banging her mop against our door every time she goes past. Until today!

So, today we had a non-event of an event with the dogs. We have subsequently realised that we need to get a stairgate, because they’re slippery as eels. Anyway, one of them (T-Bone, the fat little tank) slid out past us today and started trotting around in the yard. I dash out straight away to get him, but of course he thinks this is a great game and gallops about faster with his little John Wayne bowed legs. The dog is out in the yard for no more than one minute when suddenly, cleaning lady appears and starts howling: ‘your dog is in the yard! Your dog is in the yard! It is not on a leash!’ Oh, thanks, I thought that was a pigeon. ‘Your dog is in the yard!’ So.. a relatively easy situation becomes mega-stressful for all concerned, and T-Bone is wondering why the hell this woman is having a meltdown over nothing. He trots up for a treat and goes back inside the flat. Woman walks off again, banging her mop, bellowing, no doubt to report us to.. well, I don’t even know who she could report that to.

Now.. I love this place.. I just really resent having to feel awkward that we’re going to bump into this woman when we could quite easily have got along fine (and we did, on our first brief meeting). I absolutely understand that it is a problem if my dogs bark or run about in the yard, but those events have occurred, respectively, once; and each time narrioch and I have been doing our best to stop them from happening. I can’t stand irresponsible dog owners. I also understand that people might be alarmed by dogs, but it’s not as if fat little T-Bone is a huge Cerberus with babies’ limbs hanging out of his slobbering chops. What I can’t understand is.. why people feel the impulse to complain so readily and so openly. Many’s a time that I have observed people behaving in a bizarre or annoying manner, but I can’t imagine having a temper short enough that I would instantly start shouting at them. For example, when cleaning lady yelled at narrioch about the dog (who was being quieter than she was at the time), she kept repeating ‘there is a baby, there is a baby’ as if this was supposed to be of some great importance. Yes, there is a baby living in our apartment block (so? Why does everyone have to be so obsessed with babies anyway?) It is living right above us, in fact; and it bellows and wails enough to wake us up and keep us up, staring at the wall, getting Vietnam flashbacks from the screams. Do we rush upstairs and pound on the door to scream back at it, or at the parents? No. And I know that babies are made out of white gold and their hair is threads of phoenix spit, and I will just never get it because I don’t have a baby, nor do I have any desire to ever do so. And I also know that my dog shouldn’t bark. But what does the porcelain baby have to do with it? The little darling screams bloody murder all day and everyone thinks that’s charming. I just don’t get it.

What also makes me laugh about the whole situation is that there is another dog living in the building, who this very morning was in the yard running about happily – and that dog is never leashed, and has run up to ours with its teeth bared more than once. But it’s okay, because that’s a poodle. Pretty much everyone else here is great, though, and doesn’t mind the silly warbly dog even if she does grumble at them in the yard (because if they are calm, and let her smell their hand and everything, she wags at them like a lunatic).  

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I love Berlin, and I love the fact that it is one of the most dog-friendly cities there is. Having my new dog, Gigi, has allowed me to meet far more people than my terrible German would otherwise have enabled. She’s from the city’s animal shelter and is a fantastic little buddy, albeit with an incredibly stubborn streak. She has met some great doggy friends here and has improved dramatically since we picked her up six weeks ago. However… our walks together have generated some very bizarre encounters, and for fellow dog-owners everywhere, here are a few of my favourites!


ONE: Bakery Man

One from narrioch. One of the first people that she met whilst walking Gigi was a respectable-enough looking man sitting outside a bakery. This man watched with great interest as the two approached, and when Gigi was secured outside the bakery he decided to impart the following gems: the best way to educate a dog is to tug constantly on its lead so that it thinks it is surrounded by strangers, and will therefore be submissive; and even better, when the ‘war’ comes, Bakery Man will be there to save all the world’s animals. He will apparently be doing this by opening a tunnel from Siberia to Spain which all the animals can ‘run through’ and he will subsequently live in paradise with all his four-legged friends. Apparently he looked quite respectable to narrioch at first, until she noticed the dirty fingernails and missing shoes.



TWO: Leads are Evil

And another from narrioch (I wonder why I don’t meet so many… characters). Two bulked-up guys walking a Chihuahua (!) stopped her as she walked Gigi along the street. One of them proceeded to tell her how wrong it was to walk a dog on a leash, and started trying to tug at the leash to encourage her to set Gigi free. He said that he was an authority on dog ownership because he had previously owned a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. What happened to the Staffy? It ran off one day whilst on a walk and never came back.


THREE: Your Dog is Rabid
One of many, many ‘unleashed dog’ stories. Whilst out in the park, we were all happily playing a game of catch (or search and destroy as Gigi plays it) and saw a huge, mouth-frothing Rottweiler mix pelting toward us at the speed of sound. Gigi wasn’t too worried, but the dog leapt all over her, slamming her onto the ground – we tried to lead her away, but the Rottie kept on coming. The owner was in view about 500 feet away, sitting on a park bench heavy-petting his girlfriend with his legs spread wide open as if he just lost his horse. Rather than getting up and trying to remove his dog, or at least asking if we minded the dog’s presence, he just sat on the bench and continually hollered his dog’s name at five second intervals for several minutes, to no avail. Eventually the dog got bored and wandered off, so we started up our game again. Rottie came galloping back, stole the ball we were throwing and took it back to Roy Rogers, who thought this was totally hilarious and threw the ball for him a few times before whistling at us and threwing the ball back towards us. Okay, it was only a tennis ball, but… words fail me.

FOUR: Your Dog is the Devil

Another unleashed dog one; a snappy, growly rat-dog leapt on Gigi as we were walking and tried to bite the bejeezus out of her. It might have been smaller than a handbag but it was a nasty bastard (not the dog’s fault, though). Did the dog’s owner intervene? No.. she stood back and watched while Gigi got attacked, narrioch got scratched legs and I grabbed the rat as soon as I could and pushed it back toward her. We asked her for an apology and told her that her dog should be on a leash, but all we got in response was that it was our fault. Not sure how she worked that one out.





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I saw a t-shirt the other day which was so packed full of Engrish, I almost bought it, but now that I am a responsible dog-parent I just can’t afford to indulge in irony like that any more. I know that it’s not the same, but I’ll try and transcribe it. It was on sale in a shop called Mister Lady (huh?) and featured a comic strip with some great captions… First of all was an image of a schoolboy with the caption ‘John wants to exercises. He can’t school with friends.’ Next he was in a basketball court, with the caption ‘Ready getting for the big tourney.’ Then, John makes it to the big time, and is playing in the tournament. One of his team-mates is so excited that he leaps in the air and screams ‘Let’s… JOHN!’ Finally, John and his team hold aloft a trophy, all screaming ‘CUP OURS!’

Now, I’m sure that the people who made this t-shirt have a better grasp of English than I do of German, so I’m not just trying to prove a linguistic mock. But still, wouldn’t someone.. at some point in the production of this t-shirt.. check that it made some kind of sense? Then again, I wonder why no professional signmaker ever refuses to emblazon a British shopfront with ‘BARBARAS’ HAIR’ or ‘JAME’S VIDEO’S’. Or my favourite, spotted in Warwickshire: ‘Chipie’s and Fishe’s’, which is unforgivable (unless two people called Chipie and Fishe got together to open a fish-and-chip shop, and that would be a slim chance indeed).

Anyway, to get back to the subject matter in hand, I have seen some SPECIAL shirt slogans here in Berlin. My favourites so far have included ‘WHITE PUSSY’ emblazoned on the back of a hoodie worn by a middle-aged man holding his daughter’s hand; ‘SUICIDE SQUAD: BIND, TORTURE, KILL’ on the shirt of a waitress in a leafy, posh West Berlin suburb; and ‘STABBING ATTACK!’ on tacky, shiny white t-shirts on sale in cheap shops galore. This doesn’t fill me with quite the same sense of depressing grimness that it would if I saw such shirts in England. At least they are isolated instances, and I can hope that anyone wearing them doesn’t really understand the meaning… It does make me nostalgic for a time before my own. I wonder what happened to us, when it really wasn’t all that long ago that nobody would be seen outside without their hat and gloves. I also wonder what kind of people are going to be reading this blog with the sort of keywords I’m including.

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