Mental and Physical Toxicity

My friend talks of too much Pilsner, of vats of ‘becalmed’ French Red as a surrogate, a crutch, after the (mild) excesses of Berlin.  I feel it more acute than ever: a general desire to accomplish something but a feeling of looking through a gauze mesh at a faded to-do list.  I look at what I have to do and add up the differences it will make.  All that effort, to what end?  It speaks volumes when I make a cup of tea as a displacement activity.

They are arguing over the trains.  They are proposing a windfall tax on the rich.  An article on one rich person fails to notice there are plenty of unjustly rich people in the UK.  What do I want to do with what it is that I want?

Berlin: 2


I’m in the Weinmeister after the Lux overbook.  A joyless cab ride a few blocks.  A walk into a cafe in the morning and some joyless service.  I order in English being as the fucking menu is in English and get a curt response.  It is not so much that this is a problem, but any time we do hit a problem (poor service, unavailability of an item, awful service in the TV Tower restaurant) then there is no way back around to an easy solution.  The Germans appeared geared up to have things run along tram lines and won’t put themselves out.

Fur hier?, she asks and I say ‘yes’.  The coffee is okay.

Aside: not that world needs my thoughts on this (I have questioned this blog itself, in that the therapy angle is really the only pedagogic angle I can justify), but those plastic beaker cups that commuters drink out really do demean us all.  Do we all really not have time to sit and drink coffee anymore?  Hot and plastic, a glorious drink becomes overhot mouthscald.

It’s going to be hard to find a breakfast/brunch place, I think, as all they seem to do here is pastries, cakes, waffles and big slabs of breaded pork served with a side order of indifference.  But I find somewhere that serves a farmer’s breakfast, crisped bacon, onions in an omelette configuration with pickled gherkin as a counterpoint. Dave tells me picked gherkins are called ‘Wallies’.  He might well be right.  I had a jar of Wallies sealed so tight I had to throw them away, unopened.

So close, we can smell where the past
Left a mark
— Liz Worth, “Amphetamine Heart”

I sometimes can smell where the past has left a mark.  It’s a grapefruit sized bruise on a clear, pale thigh, once raspberry blue and now shades of ochre and yellow, and to me it is the fitful post-work shop from the market, rifling through the punnets for a pound and I’m desperate to feed on you —

We’ll make a smoothie of this yet, we think, but we’re lying to each other.  We’re clearly lying to each other.


I stumble upon Loveparade.  Banging techno that sounds like a heart attack and hundreds of teenagers dancing behind trucks.  They are all carrying glass bottles.  There are police only at the beginning and the end of the parade.  It simply could not happen in the UK.  Someone would stab someone else.  But then rather than throw the empties into a truck, or a bin, the street sweepers smash all of them. This creates a sea of broken glass that the road sweeper trucks don’t manage to retrieve.  Cars, bikes, all tyres grind over a mulch of broken brown glass and accrue slow punctures.  I can’t but think it a bit… stupid?

I am too tired to follow the parade.  I make a value judgement and I come down on the other side of that fence.  I am not young, or German, and I’m not clutching a bottle of Asti.  I do not have a mohawk and I am not on acid or Ecstasy.  I sit on a terrace and smoke.  Maybe I should have followed the parade.

Maybe I should have followed.

Maybe I should have?

But then I’ve spent the day enjoying the murk of Exile on Main Street and Adam was right and this is their best album and none of those floats were playing the Stones.  They were playing music that was setting off car alarms.

I get to the third Melrose novel and even Edward St Aubyn has lost his way and can’t make a middle aged Patrick interesting.  This doesn’t bear writing about inasmuch as it is a soft blanket and an anaesthetic.  A Cuba Libra burns its way through my stomach and ‘Stop Breaking Down’ draws to a close.  I think of William Carlose William’s ‘Pastoral’ and I know the limits of my own thought.  I know the limits of my talent in this forum.  But would I admit it?  What, after all, what I admit?  That I have no real desire to speak of events, only things and the gaps inbetween them?

Soft sweet hookah smoke drifts over.  I should finish this before the end of ‘Shine A Light’ but I won’t.  Angels all beating / their wings in time.

Later, on the roofterrace of the W, a man is wearing a black baseball cap unironically and the Berlin skyline has almost nothing worth the name but I know that when we were young and the world was ours to seize and clutch and grasp, in that very basic dawn after that hurdle was gone, this room I’m in would have made us sing and smile and I would have —

Yes, I would have.  I think of your butterfly bruise.  Your butterfly of touch and the things inbetween touch.  If anything, I was only guilty of not being me yet.




I remember like baggage and it is visceral.  I carry it around me like loose change in a pocket, jangling.  It brings back taste, and sound and touch.

You remember, too, I am sure.  Like loose change in a handbag and every once in a while you come across a shiny silver coin and a joy fills your tiny heart.

You – the improbable, intractable ‘You’.  Every time I open my mouth to talk about You it demeans us both that little bit further.

Berlin: 1


Erasure earmark a day.

It’s a thrill to get on the U2 u-bahn, hard to deny.  It’s hot and cabinned, laminate wood and plastic seats like those in “Coming to America”.  People let their soul glow through cut off denim and vest tops, wardrobe of choice.  It is miles to the FUB, in the humid 35 degree plus heat.  The gay disco pop banging out of the free Sansa headphones that have already been through my washing machine once seems appropriate.  I’m learning German – danke, bitte, ein klein bier bitte.  We eat a quiche, drink a Paulaner and then I get back to the business of thinking.


The Melrose Novels by Edward St Aubyn have received great reviews, and very wide press coverage.  His quality as a writer is undoubted.  You read on, dazzled by the exquisite poise and savage brutality of his prose.

One quote particularly stood out, as I was reading the second novel, Bad News.  Today had turned into a dark, humid night in Berlin. Phosphorous and sodium light bleached into the night in a lurid yellowy tang of sleaze and the promise of a good time.  I sat Emma’s, a restaurant, outside, near a fountain.

“If only his body would turn into a pane of glass, the fleshless interval between two spaces, knowing both belonging to neither, then he would set free from the gross and savage debt he owed the rest of nature.”

I highlighted it, and stopped reading, unable to continue for the time being.

Preface: London weekend


When I wake on the couch in my boxer shorts the weekend has begun in earnest, but I return to bed with a sense of sheepish indulgence because for the next 48 hours I don’t have to talk to anyone, face to face, if I don’t want to, and I might not.  The sun streams brightly and it has wilted my plants.  I chop out the ivy and replace with shop bought pebbles.  I comb them with my hands.  I smell that hot sun smell and I empty my mind.  All that is there is second hand opinion and lust and a smattering of expertise that finds dull traction in an imperfect world full of ego and hands pressing hands.

It’s A Closure

I go, as much as you are able to to, cycling through old Facebook messages.  They are very old.  They go back into 2006 and some of them come across very badly.  Some of them are to people I had even forgotten I knew, or knew well, or knew a little bit, or knew lots, or perhaps even dated.  Loved, even.  Yes: loved.  That verb.  Past tense.

The past tense of verbs is something that shifts what is happening now to what has become a part of the rapidly disappearing image in the rear-view mirror.

These messages are vignettes of someone who essentially existed a long time ago.  That, in aggregate form, exists now, but not really.

To put a closure on something and to inculcate new rules takes time.  That same thing that made the vignettes in the first place.  That placed such a interesting twist on the memory bank of messages I am archiving.  I can’t even find a delete button.  Perhaps that is partly the point of this Facebook endeavour.  It is collective memory.  It has transcended folklore.  Now you can re-live that party in 2007.  Just – go – onto Timeline.

Look at that outfit.  That haircut.  That 29 inch waist.  Look, then, at that person that would eventually decide that you weren’t really even worth a single email in years.  Lives, bifurcating.

It’s a closure.