Saturday, May 9, 2009

Birthdays and Bullshit


Well, my lively time in Berlin continues, and I’m trotting to keep with the pace as I whirl from one group of delightful new people to the next…
This week has featured two ‘family’ birthdays. On Tuesday it was Kevin’s sister, Sandra, and we celebrated with dinner at the luxurious headquarters of the Operetta Research Center, Berlin ... Sandra, husband Cédric, Maxime 11 and Leonie 7 and friend Silke .. and today, all over again, with a picnic for twenty-seven at the Tiergarten.

Thursday was, of course, Ian’s birthday. Were he still here, he would have been ninety. I don’t think he would have liked that much. But I think that he would have liked the fact that Kevin, Bert-Jan and I toasted his ninetieth at the Grill Royale, on the Banks of the Spree, in the sort of good white wine he always loved.
He might have been a wee bit cross to see me there solo, two and a half years on, but hey, my love, you are a pretty hard act to follow. And there are worse things than lonely.

On the ‘events’ side can be counted a visit to the Jewish Museum for an exhibition on the Nazi euthanasia programme, and another to the smaller theatre at the Admiralspalast for the first performance (here) of a piece called Ganz oder gar nicht. The former was by far the more pleasant experience. If those who had complained about ‘provincialism’ the other night at the Komische Oper had been at this premiere, they would have expired. Well, they would have walked out. I myself only stayed for the second half to keep Kevin (there officially) company and I squirmed every minute to the final curtain which is the only reason for the show’s existence. The thing pretends to be related to the film The Full Monty, but it lacks every ounce of the humanity and quality of the film, preferring instead to go for a crude, low, end-of-the-pier kind of 1950s ‘humour’ in what is simply a tacky ‘get-em-off’ relative of Ladies’ Night or Stepping Out. The performances and particularly the direction were on the level of the piece. Vulgar, unfunny, amateurish, and when – like I – you have a limited command of the language being spoken, you notice this all the more. I started counting the number of times ‘Scheisse’ was said, but gave up from boredom.
From the heights of the Bar jeder Vernunft, to the utter pits of this rubbish was a long way to fall. Ah well, heigh ho, it's Tannhäuser on Sunday. Whatever one thinks of Wagner, one knows where one is with him. At least not at the end of a mucky pier.

Between the birthdays and this ‘bullshit’, I’ve done the café and bar routine quite a bit. My German, alas, is not improving as it might have 30-40 years ago, so I’ve had plenty of time deafly to mull the quality of the local beer. The Grottebier of the Belgian-Dutch border is still in the lead, so my research will have to continue. My favourite foodie moment has come in a little restaurant named Weinstein, with a delicate dish of roasted rabbit washed down by German Riesling.
I’ve also fitted in a little bit of strolling: down the Kurfürstendamm to the Nollendorfplatz (Chris Isherwood territory), past several theatres of the present (the Theater des Westens has a new musical, a stage version of the hit film spoof Schuh des Manitu) and the past, to the Café Berio, alongside the late lamented Theater am Nollendorfplatz, and I am starting to get the feel of Berlin just a little. There’s no hurry …
I have the rest of my life.

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