60 Hours In Berlin Off The Wall

I depart for my oldest mate’s stag weekend in Berlin tomorrow, or I should say at a ludi-chris time of tomorrow morning from east midlands airport – y’know the one that resembles an art gallery with all the art stolen by corporate chain stores desperately vying at eye level by trying to convince you that you’ve forgotten something of upmost importance for your holiday like a pocket teamaid or automated pillow fluffer?

Although we arrive at 10am Friday with T-minus 60 hours to be ‘Brits abroad up to no good but not quite banged up’, I arrive armed with ‘Around Berlin in 80 Beers’ written by the unfortunately named Peter Sutcliffe. It turns out that rather than being the Yorkshire Ripper allowed conditional release to undertake trans-euro express trips comparing the Deustche capital’s finest brewpubs & historic beer styles until he recalls victim’s burial sites, Peter Sutcliffe is much less dangerously an economics analyst in Whitehall (though this is an also increasingly edgy profession in Jack the ‘other’ Ripper’s former slashing grounds) who runs the Foreign Beer Bar at Battersea Beer Fest & lives in Berlin half the time.

Try to outpedal the dreaded condition known as ‘kegleg’

There is a 9 hour bar crawl included in his book which I suspect is a good 7 hours historic context & padding between bars but still, anywhere David Hasselhoff has sung about Looking for Freedom along a 155 kilometre long wall in a LED-flashing jacket is good enough for me. Typing of Herr Hasselhoff, did you know his surname translates as Hazelnut House? No, neither did he until recently according to the latest Big Issue but then he didn’t know where Austria is & his ancestors were from Bremen, the flaming ninnyhead.

To anything less than the best of Berlin’s brews I say “Spulwasser!” (“waste water”). At least this time around on a stag weekend I won’t be having to grapple with a shaved ape-cum-cold turkey junkie in an illuminous man-kini posing like Kate Winslet on a toddler’s mini go-kart outside a respectable rural family pub on the Broads (but that’s a tale for another blog entry). Partridge calls Norfolk the Provence of Britain and Berlin’s just as flat but not quite as wet with buildings even known to rise above 2 storeys!

As my dear pal Alex commented “if you mange to drink all 80 beers in 60 hours you deserve a medal, that’s roughly 1.3 beers an hour, which you’ll have to increase to approximately 2.2 an hour once you’ve factored in sleep time, but as the ancient Germanic proverb goes ‘you can sleep when you’re dead’ – so maybe it’s possible”.

I will make sure that in any tight spot I just think to myself “What would Uter Zorker, The Simpsons plump & gluttonous exchange student, say in this situation?”

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Cheers to you Pete ‘I’m a drinker not a ripper’ Sutcliffe!

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Have you ever been to Electric Londonland?

Well I haaave and it’s become nigh on inconceivable to ‘do’ a full-on largin’ it propa BANGinyaface weekender bender on under 100 smackers. You’d have more chance of getting Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin to fork out on repaying your overdraft (Wahey that wins my ‘Joke of the Moment’ award which shall already make this piece look outdated by next week).

One very effective secret weapon against excessive blowout in that there Nodnol is the glory of Samuel Smith pubs (Creamy bland John’s more credible brother). Ironically although Sam always did the far superior bitter whether Old Brewery or Sovereign, it must’ve been his bro who felt the most bitter about his shortcomings in their vast gulf of difference in brewing tradition. High Holborn holds two gems right round the corner from its underground station; Princess Louise & Cittie of Yorke (if you LOVED Princess Louise then you’re bound to love etc). Even the Gents in the Princess are grade II listed along with the rest of its ornately decorated glass interior – not sure how comfortable I was taking a leak on a Victorian landmark. The general pub decor resembles the Hall in Return to Oz minus detachable heads screeching ‘Dorothy’ at you – this only serves to magnify the wonder. Knowing my dad’s appreciation of the standard of public house facilities he’d probably have been suitably in awe enough to contract stage-fright were it not for his overactive prostate. I would’ve taken a photo were there not common laws of decency through fear of being misunderstood (as George Michael said to that policeman).

Like an urban mirage of readily available & exposed pure brewing excellence

The opening statement about the cost to ensure your continued existence in Londinium is mostly due to ever rising train fares now that I’m over 26 (as the least hedonistic member of the 27 club) & therefore no longer qualify for a ‘young’ person’s railcard. If only applicants were based on their youthful behaviour in preference of age – why just the other day I chortled myself into a coughing fit over a phallic shaped snow rocket with gonad-shaped cylinders by the friend’s porch I was visiting in Holloway. Sadly the government/national transport network chooses not the recognise people who’d still rather ‘go public’ between the ages of 27-60. Presumably to MPs & national rail companies that whole midsection of life (though not for me if I keep inflicting a London lifestyle upon myself) is just a slash in the bedpan of travelling experiences overall. Despite not being a student or pensioner I feel I’m currently living some sub-par combo existence of the two…

Many lifeforms at some point during their 20s seem to either straight up adopt or heavily flirt with the notion of a better life in the wider conurbation of Capital City. The majority move back home or outside the ring of Hades that is the M25 in search of better air, water, soil, drainage, etc. Alright then AND value for money if you’re really that shallow & being pedantic. Alas instalments of one weekend in London are about my breaking point (I would’ve written ‘tipping point’ but everywhere expect you to tip people who often have the same skills as you but are in an infinitely more competitive environment).

Snow did make the whole scene is little easier to swallow however (I strongly advise you read John Doran’s vice column ‘Menk’ for more on the emotive loveliness of snow; http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/menk-by-john-doran-crystal-world-with-winter-flowers). Something about its nonjudgmental delicate arrival just sends your sense of unruly mischief spinning & unites all walks of life (as they all look idiotic trying to walk on new ice over older black). Well, that and my mate slipped arse over tit in the west end whilst doing a circular jig muhahahahaaaaaaaar (ahem, pause). Shared moments not of schadenfreude but pleasurable reminiscences are more valuable than any trumped up door fee or novelty Del Boy cocktail in our fair capital. It is these that will keep me coming back (albeit occasionally) to catch up chasing quality boozers into a cocked hat with the boys from the black stuff sporting anti-swastika tattoos OI! OI!

"Mr Snowman, sir why are you waving at my parents being arrested?"

NOTTINGHAM October 2011: Amateur Shots of a City in Full Season

Here are some recent snaps captured on the digital behemoth that is my mother-in-law’s ex-mobile phone – patented the very same year as sandpaper. Light years ahead for pixilation & subtleties of capturing autumnal shade I’m sure you’ll agree. Ahem, well anyroad on with the visual spectacle…

Upon biking across the suspension bridge over the Trent on a very misty Armistice morning last Friday I arrived just in time to observe the tail-end of the 2 minute silence around the War Memorial on Victoria Embankment. About the only time I’ve seen the main gate opened; its certainly a defining feature of our city & often overlooked when carnies erect a shitting massive fairground ride which plunges couples to their doom in a giant egg-shaped cockpit during Riverside Festival every August Bank Holiday.

Pedalling on through The Meadows I embarked upon a clearly well-loved Grandmother’s Jamaican funeral with the classic open Shirehorse-drawn carriage draped with national colours and several mourners gathered. Brought a touch of New Orleans or N’Awlinz style to the proceedings (or maybe I’ve just seen too much of the HBO series Treme) & without wanting to sound disrespectful it semed to put some ‘fun’ back into funeral. As with the remembrance service I paused to appreciate the serenity for several minutes (“How’s the serenity?” as dad would say in The Castle). Although the picture quality is poor I felt the scattering leaves complimented the flag & floral display atop the carriage & the little chapel looked warm & intimate.

This is the back of Queen’s Walk Community Centre shown leading a procession of funeral cars each with their mini Jamrock flags. Those Mercs were so well wax-polished that upon cycling past they actually zoomed in to reflect my image. I wouldn’t have felt offended were this not to the same extent as shown on CSI to imply newfound evidence (curse these bacteria-smothered follicles). Not sure what the Subaru in the shot is aiming for though.

Looking back down Queen’s Drive Avenue the collarge of browns, oranges, reds & yellows frame an underpass painted in more psychedelic patterns which indicates the bridge probably possesses the spirit of some kinda Deadhead or Woodstock casualty. There are never enough avenues around British towns & cities in my experience. They just give a really inviting and Continental feel to even the most underwhelming street or housing estate & really take the edge off harsh terraced or high-rise developments full of gloomy concrete brickwork & jagged corners. It’s like a concrete jungle sometimes it makes me wonder…

It’s reversing small children who need the most care dag nammit! This is a sign outside a nursery/crèche just over Muster’s Road back in Bridgford which shows the comedy that can result (to me at least) from the simple exclusion of a coma or hyphen. Surely there should be a speed camera installed to accurately award the harshest-breaking parent’s reversal skills during their delivery of each child with the minimum stopping time (Eat that UPS).

Waiter there's a man in my soup! Oh wait it's just a black bean

There, you all saw it! Continuing on the gigglesomely misleading snapshot theme, surprisingly none of us ordered the Black Peeper dish to accompany our meal at Banzai Japanese restaurant in Hockley. Then again, how would we know if he really was as good a peeper as they were suggesting? I frequented the Gent lavatory’s sole cubicle just to be sure. If only he was followed by his other typo-friend (or fiend) Garlic Butler. I remember making the fatal mistake of ordering Sake both in my main soup dish of Spicy Beef Udon & flask form that night after happy hour cocktails at Tilt & before meeting mates at The Organ Grinder Pub on Alfreton Road to sample their fine Ilkeston-based Blue Monkey Brewery ales; 99 Red Baboons whilst you BG Sips Sir?). Tasty Night Out? Fo’ sho’! Sensible Beverage Schedule? Hail No Bro!

All she asks is to be treated equally...& fitted with a new candle every now & then

Meet my beautiful fruit of a ladyfriend Lorn (FYI Pumpkins are squash-like fruits not vegetables). I wish I could say she dressed up for Halloween but actually she’d forgotten all about it & fortunately these were just the house clothes she happened to be wearing. Lucky break huh? Seedless to say that night she drank a shellfull & had to have her stomach plumped WAHEY!

At 7.30am you'd be shooting in blurry-eyed soft focus too

Moving on from pumpkins to baby eeerm bumpkins I’m proud to present my niece Eva. Or I would be if I could snap any pics that did her justice but until then you’ll have to settle for this shape shifting early morning apparition. I’m pretty certain she engages her surrounding bear committee in telepathic discourse of how to revolt against this giant imbecile of a shared backseat relative abusing her delicate image. Her full name’s Eva May (as in Eva May Care) but here she’s en route to nursery so it’s Eva Daycare. Thankfully it’s not the nursery above where she must be reversed at speed.

Honestly, you wait all year for an art exhibition with one bus & then...

My fairer half here sans Pumpkinsuit can be seen admiring all the artistically fashioned creatures decorating old Barton bus models during the Carnival of Monsters exhibition on High Road towards Chilwell. I seem to recall one child having drawn a zombie hamster turned part-cannibal by craving ham which I thought was particularly haunting. In addition you could sample the event organiser’s far-superior gallery of the wider pieces on display here:

http://www.carnivalofmonsters.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=27&Itemid=79

"Ring ring ring goes the bell oops it's broken"

Whilst now looking like the ridiculously eccentric coach wagon driven by Willy Wonka’s out of work cousin that it is, this was no doubt once the only way to fly by in the low ride (if only Blue had style…or talent).

"So which one of you've been camp the longest? I should imagine things get pretty in-tents"

Meet my oldest mate Pete (or should that be ‘longest serving in action’). I do have older friends but I probably consider them more men at odds with the world. Here Pete & I attempt to determine the sociology behind Nottingham’s Occupy movement steadfastly rooted in The Old Market Square. As it happens one of our old schoolmates only earlier that day had grabbed an ole battered guitar with 2 strings missing & joined their cause. Considering it was a freezing Saturday morn at 3am we empathised with their eternal patience in trying to engage swaggering drunken passers-by with politically-motivated debate. Every Occupy movement seems to have slight differences from its disputed Madrid & Wall Street origins whilst retaining the wider communal network which so aided & publicised the otherwise media-oppressed uprisings of The Arab Spring. Tesco & McDonalds packaging around the central gazebo only adds to the ironic severity of their plight.

And there we have it folks. Just imagine all the wonder & grace you’d have seen in infinitely finer detail if I had a blinking camera that was any cop?

As ever remember to take care out there…whatever you are