Love and Chaos Part 1(F) Chris 2

14th November 2020

Berlin Zoo and Surrounding Areas - The Elephant Gate
Berlin Zoo Station. Google Images

Part One. Berlin. Spring 1993

Despite travelling for a day, with little sleep or food, Chris felt elated as the train entered the western suburbs of Berlin, a sensation he had simply never known before. For the first time, he wasn’t scared, but knew that he had made the right choice. He felt that he had left nothing, and nothing had ever worked out. He never had the feeling that he was in the right place, doing the right thing.

Now, as he looked out of the train window, he saw people on the streets, cars, yellow buses, giant ‘U’s indicating underground stations, white letter on deep blue background, and blocks of flats, only four or five stories tall; long, ordered roads, small side squares, he saw, for the first time, Berlin.

The train corridor was filling up, Zoologische Garten was next stop. Some unshaven lads were smoking, an elderly lady screamed at them to step aside, a middle-aged man in leather pants and jacket walked past holding an open beer can, two teenage girls appeared eating something out of tin foil.

Chris had read and re-read the instructions, but stepping out onto the platform was still disconcerting. All signs, naturally, were in German, and everyone but him knew exactly which of the many exits to use. People streamed past, all with a determination he envied. He walked to the platform centre where there was a large map and studied the signs leading to various streets. He recognized his one, followed it and emerged, finally, out of the main doors, by the large bus terminal. It was as Marina had said; he’d see a large tower with the Mercedes sign, the Europa Center. From the station, he had to go south on Joachimstaler Strasse, and to his left, before Europa they’d be the ruined shell of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church. Keep walking and on the corner of the Ku’ Damm was a bar. He should get a table outside, order a coffee or Sekt (he had no idea what a Sekt was) and wait.

He was a little behind schedule, spending more time twisting the corridors of the station, than on the streets, but he was here, one suitcase, one wallet (with a less than impressive amount of Deutsch Marks), and no reason to be anywhere else.

Marina had said that the waitress would come to him, would speak English and may be cute. The waiter did indeed come to his table, but he spoke English begrudgingly and couldn’t by any stretch be deemed ‘cute’, none of which mattered; the coffee arrived reasonably quickly, was reasonably good and was reasonably over-priced.

He hoped he wasn’t too much of a sight, and wished he’d shaven on the boat when he’d had the chance. The worst part for him had been the very first step, leaving his bedsit and taking the Tube to the mainline station. From there it had improved, slightly, though the train ride through miles of dreary, depressing London suburbia was only inspirational in a negative way: what could be
worse ? The boat was where he first felt some indefinable happiness, as if leaving England was restoring him to youth and health and hope. Then came the confusion of Holland, and the realisation that he had Pounds and Marks but no Dutch money, so couldn’t buy any food or drink there. The trip to Hamburg was one of prolonged suspense, as he was in a limbo of sorts, but it got him into Germany for the final leg, and a ride that reinforced the image of German efficiency and timekeeping.

He ordered a second coffee and then a beer, as he saw many people drinking alcohol freely in the mid-day sun. He immediately sensed the relaxation in the atmosphere, none of the stress and anxious restlessness of London. Then he felt two hands over his eyes.

“Chris ! You’re here.”

Marina jumped in front of him, bounced up and down once or twice and hugged him. Chris stood up but wasn’t sure how affectionate he was supposed, or allowed, to be and gave her a feeble kiss on the lips, which she returned after a slight hesitancy, but with the passion of friendship and nothing else.

Chris though she looked fantastic, even more so than in London, with her sparkling brown eyes and curly brown hair. He loved the way she took command, raising a delicate hand to summon the waiter and then dismissing him with a charming smile.

She explained how thing were, speaking in her animated style, with hand gestures and a myriad of subtle inflexions. The first night he would be staying with her and Ross, her boyfriend. The ‘B’ word. Chris thought back to Richard and his routine. He had known about the boyfriend in London, but he had been hundreds of miles away, now Chris would have to see him, and be aware that this night it would be the boyfriend that would take Marina to bed.

He kept these emotions under control as Marina continued, and smiled hearing how busy she had been on his behalf. Tomorrow, he could stay with her oldest friend, Claudia. She had an English boyfriend, but he would be away for a week, so she had space. They knew a landlady who had a flat that should be free in a week, possibly sooner and Claudia could also get him a job at a studio where she did some part time work.

“Well, then,” said Chris, clapping his hands, “we should drink Champagne.”

He was joking, but Marina was already in action. She softly bit her lip, an action that drove Chris wild, and raised a finger for the waiter, followed by a smile that could disarm the meanest of souls. She ordered a bottle of something.

“Not Champagne. Even better. And German !”

The Sekt arrived with all pomp, an ice bucket and two flutes. The waiter poured, stern-faced, with his right arm, his left tucked way behind his back in an attitude that Chris felt had to be excruciating. He finished pouring, gave a curt nod with the merest soupcon of a smile, then left. Marina picked up her glass, Chris his and they toasted,

“Prost!” the German ‘cheers’

“Sekt. Do you like it ?”

“Oh, this is Sekt. Yeah. And a whole bottle. Can we afford it ?”

Marina laughed, with her hearty, open-mouthed, unaffected manner.

“This isn’t London. Learn to live. Learn to have fun.”

“It won’t be easy. How do we get to your house ? Tube ?”

“Car.”

“But you’ve been drinking ?”

Marina raised her left shoulder slightly, turned out her bottom lip and tilted her head.

“Ja. Und ?”

Chris laughed and they slowly killed off the bottle, as Marina talked about everything and nothing and Chris, as long as he was looking at her, didn’t care either way.


The evening at Marina’s was uneventful, as he was tired from the journey and the afternoon drinking. Marina had laid out a towel, some soap, a new toothbrush and prepared some food while he washed. As far as Chris was concerned, everything was fine, more than fine, wonderful. Until Ross came home.

In much the same way that he knew he was going to Berlin, it hadn’t been until he had quit work, given notice on his room and found himself at passport control, that it really sank in. Now it wasn’t until he physically saw Ross that he accepted that Marina had a boyfriend. And he hated him.

He was a boorish Glaswegian, working as project manager on a construction site. He was fond of his own voice and of showing who was boss in the house. Throughout the evening, he constantly reprimanded Marina when he felt she was being too silly or childish, or if they seemed about to embark on a lover’s spat. Chris hoped and hoped that they would. He envisioned jumping into her car and the both of them moving into this new flat. But it would never be. She deferred to Ross every time.

The unforgivable occurred as they were making arrangement for going to bed. Marina had slipped away to get an extra blanket and Ross had slapped her on the backside and winked at Chris.

“I feel like an early night, tonight,” which he illustrated with an unbuckling of his belt.

Left alone in the main room, Chris tiptoed to the kitchen, found a half bottle of wine, uncorked it and gulped freely. He reasoned that he needed to sleep and didn’t want to be disturbed by any noise.

What he was disturbed by actually pleased him. Around six-thirty, Ross began getting washed and dressed and made no concession to the sleeping guest, shouting out to Marina entirely superfluous comments. If these had no effect, Ross went over to Chris and shook him, telling him it was nice to meet him and that they should do brunch, soon.

The front door closed and although Chris wanted more than anything to jump up and onto Marina, he resisted the temptation and soon after, the Berlin chorus began.

Somewhere in the neighbourhood, a cacophony of industrial noise rose up, a mix of drills, shouts, electric whirls and buzzes, hammering, thumping, heavy vehicles and heavy machinery.

Rubbing sleep from her eyes and emerging from her room still in her nightie, Marina greeted him with a smile, the light in her distant room back-lighting her like an angel. She told him to rest with a laugh, then said that the noise stopped in half an hour. Meanwhile, she would wash, dress and go out to buy breakfast.

Chris’ first Berlin breakfast was quite a feat to live up to. Fresh bread rolls, various jams, cheeses, meat slices, smoked salmon, eggs, fruit, yoghurt, coffee, orange juice and Sekt. And Marina.

Many, many mornings, as he fished around for the remnants of a coffee packet, smoking a left-over cigarette butt and taking an aspirin, he would think back to this Elysian feast.

Then it was back in the car, Marina again laughing at Chris’ solitary bag. They drove through Berlin, and Marina pointed out various sights along the way and gave a potted history lesson, most of it prefixed by “I’m not really sure but I think ….” and similar disclaimers. Chris looked everywhere, trying to absorb everything, as they sang along to tapes of R.E.M. and Nirvana.

In half an hour, there were in the old East Berlin and the change from Marina’s area was striking. Here the buildings were all dark brown, with flaking stucco. The balconies had few plants, but flimsy washing lines displaying drab items of clothing. The roads were cobbled, the air had a strange smell, which he would later recognise as a blend of briquette dust and smoke and soot and stale beer and the fumes of thousands of cigarettes. The parked cars were old models, many Trabants, there were no signs of street life and every other block seemed to be a wasteland of scrubs and dust and broken furniture. Every residential block seemed to be undergoing renovation, with temporary wooden walkways and covered tunnels leading into the blackness of inner courtyards, scaffolding, large plastic sheets that flapped incessantly and puddles of mud and sand.

Chris loved it.

They got out and went up to a block in Ackerstrasse, Marina pointing to where the Wall had been and gesturing the path it took. There was no intercom as in Marina’s flat, here the doors were open and the temperature inside felt ten degrees cooler immediately. There were rusty metal boxes hanging off the walls, graffiti covered, for people’s letters. Marina pointed out Claudia’s and led him through a door, out into a back courtyard, which had some bicycle racks and dustbins, into another block. They climbed bare, dusty stairs to the third floor and Marina knocked on a door that had faint music coming from behind. After a short pause it opened and Claudia came out, giving Marina a big hug and Chris a hug almost as warm.

The flat, which had looked so dour from the outside was transformed inside. It had a small kitchen but two medium bedrooms and a large living room with tall, green plants. The ceilings were high and there was decorative panelling with what appeared to be cherubs and flower motifs. The flat, like Claudia, seemed very open, clothes were all over, books and LP’s on the floor, papers and magazines likewise.

They were invited into the kitchen for coffee and Claudia began rolling a cigarette, asking Chris if he smoked. He did and willing accepted the proffered gift. Claudia had a certain feline sexuality in her movements, which interested Chris. When the water boiled, instead of standing up, she seemed to stretch into the space and to slink over to the stove, propelled by first one shoulder, then the other.

It was certainly low-tech in comparison with all the western devices of yesterday.

“So, Chris, do you speak any German ?“

He admitted that he knew very little, and Claudia gave a discouraging shake of disapproval, that worried him.

“You’ll have to learn. Everyone speaks English, anyway, but you’ll get a better job. And understand all the sodding paperwork.”

Chris let out a laugh at her English. She had learnt in Ireland and had a strong Irish accent, that really threw him. He later understood that although her manner could be a bit abrasive, she was as lovely as Marina.

The girls soon talked about the plan. He could start work tomorrow and there was certainly a flat available in a day or two, in Friedrichshain, a ten-minute drive away, Marina informed him. They had some food, more coffee, more cigarettes and talked about London, and how they had met, and stolen bottles and about the interrogation that Chris embellished to such an extent, that both girls fell silent in fear and trembling. Chris liked this and noted the effect a powerful story could have on his audience, especially when he cast himself as victim.

Claudia told Chris to choose more music when the tape finished, so he ejected the live Bauhaus tape and rummaged through a disorganised collection of tapes with inscrutable labels and CD’s, most of which were in the wrong sleeves. He suspected that the Dire Straits and Fleetwood Mac CD’s were her boyfriend’s contributions, the Siouxsie, Sisters Of Mercy and Depeche Mode, her own. He took his time, knowing that the tone of his relationship with Claudia would be set by his choice. He made an exclamation of pleasant surprise and inserted a tape. The female voice of German band X Mal Deutschland filled the kitchen and it had the desired effect. Claudia approved. So he had good taste in music. A good start.

Love and Chaos Part 1(E) Richard 2

Much-loved travel bookshop Stanfords is fundraising for survival
Picture of travel bookshop, Google Images

Part One. London. Spring 1993

Chris liked effects. He liked startling and surprising and shocking people. It had cost him at least one job, and made strangers treat him with caution, as they dismissed his humour as a sign of immaturity and his behaviour as borderline psychotic. But the humour was noticeably absent when he met Richard for their farewell drink. In its place was an irritability and nervousness that itself was shocking and surprising.

For the sake of Auld Lang Syne, as Richard put it, they decided to meet in the Soho pub they used to go to in the Fordham days. Chris was late and arrived flushed and agitated. Being in no mood for small talk or self-perpetuating puns, he got himself a drink and began explaining.

“I went to get my final pay packet; I’d asked them if it could be in cash because I’m leaving in two days. So I go to the office, and waiting there, with the manager and Russell, are two company lawyers. They say that they’ve been going over the stock and that there are certain inconsistencies. So much alcohol unaccounted for. Before I have a chance to think up a good lie, they tell me that I’ll get my wages, but not my holiday pay and that if I wish to seek redress, I should feel free to consult with my own solicitor. Fucking wankers !”

“Shit ! Did they have proof, or …”

“I don’t know, but they ain’t gonna blame Sophie Bloody-Twatface are they ? Well, I did it, so, yeah, guilty, fine, then they start going on about how they should really call the police and make it a matter of record, but thought that this was the better solution. Not for me. Bring the police in, just give me my money. Time they get here, I’ll be long gone. Never coming back to this shit-hole, either.”

There followed a few minutes of silent drinking, Chris staring at a patch of English pub carpet, almost without blinking. Richard nervously tried to think of something, but after an awkward interlude that Chris showed no signs of breaking, he finished his beer and went to the bar, returning with two double whiskys. Chris took the glass and drank, but his spirits were still at a depth that Richard had never seen before. Still, he allowed him this anomaly. He had never quite accepted that Chris really was going to Germany, with no German, no job, no place to stay and now, evidently, no money. Then suddenly, Chris picked up.

“Wasn’t even good wine. Bloody shit. Think they made it themselves. Nuno wouldn’t touch it. Use it as mouthwash. He’d pour it over his boots to give them a shine. Fuck ! I was counting on that money. Shit !”

Nuno was one of a number of people that were known to Richard merely by name and by anecdote. Marina he had never met, and she was already back in Berlin. Trying to lighten the atmosphere and to genuinely help, Richard offered some money, Chris declined, but accepted that he could ask if he were in trouble. Richard thought about saying that he could always come back home and return to university, but somehow sensed that that wasn’t the way to go. Instead he asked about the travel plan which seemed unnecessarily complex.

“Train to Harwich, wherever that is. I asked the clerk, ‘Is that in England ?’ and she smiled one of those forced, what an idiot efforts. Then boat to the Hook of Holland, from there to Rotterdam, onto Hamburg, then train to Berlin. Zoo Station. Get mugged by the children of Bahnhof Zoo. Another thing I know about Berlin. Full of junkie teenagers who’d stab you for a quick fix. “

“And Marina’s going to meet you there ?”

“No, at a café a few blocks away. I’ve got the address and directions. She’ll try to have something organised for me. Maybe a place to stay for a few days.”

But then Chris trailed off, as if he were only now facing up to his decision, like a bad joke that had imploded on its perpetrator. The mood didn’t improve, the alcohol just bloating them and making the evening tense and hazy. They parted warmly enough but Richard was left wondering if he would ever see Chris again, a feeling that would return over the coming years.

That being the case, he actually felt pleased by Chris’ letter, not Chris being in trouble, but that he was in contact and needed Richard’s help. He calculated that he could spare fifty to seventy pounds and set about finding out the quickest way to get it to Berlin. He had heard about people wiring money in films but had no idea how one went about it. He asked at a Post Office and it seemed quite straightforward, provided one had certain information, which he didn’t. With no bank details to transfer money to, he was left with simply posting it and hoping it got there. Converting to Deutsch Marks would take more time, so Richard put three twenty pound notes into an envelope, sellotaped the flap several times, wrote over the tape for security and sent it, to an address which, at the time, meant absolutely nothing to him:

Chris Pearson
Bei Holtzengraff
Rigaer Str 16
10247 Berlin
GERMANY / DEUTSCHELAND

It seemed somehow too little information for a European capital and the second line, beginning ‘Bei’ was a total mystery. He could have asked Melanie, who was still in London, but they had no plans to meet, and without Chris, if may have seemed rather false, not quite right.

A reply came two weeks later. The emergency was over, Marina had saved the day. He had his own flat: kitchen, bathroom and living room, and a job in a film studio. He had stayed with Claudia, a friend of Marina’s, right by where the Wall stood and had already found his local bar. Chris wrote,

“Can’t describe it, only its nothing like an English bar, thank fuck. Lots of people speak English. Work is all English speakers. Very different from London, people look happy! CHEAP !!! Beer, cigarettes, food – all cheap! Get your arse over here. “

There was no thank you for the money, but there was an invitation and that was even better. Richard planned how long he would have to work to be able to save up for the trip. It would be a few months. Nevertheless, the next day, he went out on his lunch break to the nearest bookshop and bought the Rough Guide to Berlin. He accepted that he wouldn’t be at university in September.

Love and Chaos Part 1(D) Marina 1

13th November 2020

Part One. London. Spring 1993

“So what’s wrong with you ?”

Richard put down his glass, took a deep sigh and said,

“Boyfriend trouble.”

Chris had known him long enough to know that this wasn’t some belated confession, but rather the preamble to a skit that Richard had been preparing the whole day, if not longer. Without prompting, Richard delivered the tagline;

“All the girls I like have got boyfriends.”

Chris grabbed his drink, thus avoiding the cue to make a cymbal-crash. While he appreciated these jokes, he didn’t want to seem overly impressed, in case Richard felt encouraged to make nothing but.

He knew he was no match for Richard in word games, having already conceded that point back at Fordham’s. It was near the beginning of Chris’ tenure. Richard would pass by his desk, while he was alone, and call out, “Hello, chaps,” then happily wander off. Chris gave the raised eyebrow but this was a very ineffectual comeback. After the greeting became a regular fixture, and Chris was unable to counter it, he shouted back one time,

“There’s only one of me,” to which Richard answered, immediately,

“Oh, gentlemen, don’t both speak at once !”

But now Richard was going to talk about girls.

“So there’s Neeva, from Newcastle. Lovely lass.”

“But …”

“There’s also Douglas. The boyfriend.”

“ Also working there ? You’ll be able to keep tabs on the situation.”

“True, but it seems solid. Didn’t get anywhere at Fordham’s.”

“Who did you like ?”

“All of them. But with Neeva … well, something’s possible. We all went out last Saturday, it was Gerald’s last day.”

“Which one’s that ?”

“Well he’s called Gerald, that’s all you need to know, going into stock broking, or merchant banking … anyway, we’re at the pub, I’m next to Neeva, who seems to have a low tolerance for alcohol,”

“Always a good sign.”

“And we’re talking. She’s saying how she wishes she was a tall blond goddess, which, of course, is cue for me to tell her how great looking she really is, then somehow she’s telling me how she likes to stretch out in front of a fire and just be stroked all night, like a cat.”

Chris stuck his hand up in the air, getting the attention of everyone around him in the West End pub.

“I volunteer for the job, sight unseen.”

“Hands off. Next thing I know, she’s whispering in my ear, ‘I think you’re fucking gorgeous, actually.’ ”

Chris, gave an encouraging nod, raised his glass and took a drink.

“There you are. What happened ?”

“That’s it. Nothing. She went to the bathroom, came back, then she and Doug left. Together.”

“Not good … but … yeah, maybe …”

“What … “

“Maybe, just maybe, things aren’t too great with Doug the thug. Maybe she’d putting out feelers, see if you’d be interested, if and when …”

“I’ll drink to that. So how’s your place ?”

Chris had the job, but was sent to a branch in Kensington. With Richard working in the City, they decided to meet half way, usually drinking in small pubs in side roads off Oxford Street. Neither was entirely happy with their new positions, Richard’s managerial status merely meaning that he was responsible for staff rotas, while Chris found the food and drink industry to be non-stop, with the store having only quieter periods, never quiet. The wages were similar, but both had more work and a much tighter environment. There were understandably nostalgic about Fordham’s.

“My place ? It’s Kensington. The customers are snobs, the delivery people are snobs, the bloody window cleaner is a snob. The staff ? All got three names; Sophie Fawcett-Brown. Belinda Newington-Heathcoat. Even the staff are snobs. To me. I was driven there, after the interview, by Russell …”

Richard groaned. He remembered the man from his time with the company, Russell being tall and very blond, almost albino, with large square glasses, an upper class voice and no discerning qualities whatsoever. He was never exactly sure what is was that Russell did.

“And we’re driving through Knightsbridge and he asking me if I know this area. Bloody snob, he knows I’m not from London, but just had to play his stupid one-upmanship games. I’m looking for something else.”

“This is London. Everybody’s looking for something else.”

They meet only once or twice a week, now, as it had become too expensive. Chris was devastated how quickly money just went, and Richard was constantly using his savings to finance the drinking sessions. They began to meet at each other’s bedsits and go to local pubs, or even just buy a small bottle of whisky from an off-license. On one of these nights, Chris visiting Richard, he spoke about his plans for the September term.

“Don’t think I’ll be doing Physics anymore. Think I’ll change to English Lit. Melanie thinks it’s a good idea. And she can help. She’s read every book ever written.”

Richard wasn’t sure how to react. It seemed such a drastic and spontaneous action. Chris justified his decision, explaining how he wasn’t really getting much out of his course and needed a new direction. Yet, Chris seemed happy, as if he were keeping something back for surprise. The opportunity soon came when the half bottle of Teachers was drained. Chris went to his rucksack and pulled out two bottles of French beer, but before Richard could show his delight, Chris topped this act by pulling out two wine bottles.

“I didn’t tell you. My branch has an alcohol license.”

“And you got a staff discount ?” but even while Richard was asking the innocent question, Chris’ eyes told the answer.

It was the start of a new ritual. Richard would buy a small whisky, Chris would arrive with beer and wine. Chris chose the evening before a free day, while Richard was forced to go to work with a determination never to drink again, a resolution that evaporated by lunch time.

This situation suited Richard as he could get drunk at home and not have to spend so much money. His room had a spare coach which Chris slept on, then made his way home later in the morning. Once or twice a month they met up with Melanie, though Richard sensed a slight reticence on Chris’ part and a certain holding back of information.

Another side effect of the home drinking was that Richard was alienated from Chris’ other friends, not knowing anyone at the branch where he worked. There had been mention of Nuno, a Portuguese chef, and a new German girl Chris spoke well of, but he wasn’t prepared for the news Chris broke one night.

The whisky was finished and the topic of their workday, likewise. No mention had been made of either of their returns to college. The beers came out and quickly vanished, then the wine. They opened both, clinked and drank from their bottles. They enjoyed the semblance of decadence. While they were speaking about nothing in particular, Chris said,

“I’m moving to Berlin,” then took a long swig, averting his eyes from Richard, who, duly surprised, wanted to know more but knew that Chris would only tell him when he was ready. Thankfully, when Chris began speaking, it was sometimes hard to stop him, and he spoke about Marina, the German girl.

Marina was from what had been West Berlin and had come to London for a break, improve her English, see the sights. Apparently, Chris had been out with her a few times, friendly, platonic dates, but had started to be drawn to her. Very drawn to her.

“We were in this pub and I guess I may have been talking a little loudly, and the tequila slammers didn’t help, when this pouncey barman comes over and asks me to be quiet. One of those, ‘I’m not really a barman,’ sorts, ‘I’m an actor’ pricks.’ But I’ve been drinking tequila, so I’m just dying for a Mexican stand-off, and I slam down my second, it’s a pub for fuck’s sake, over he comes, over comes another barman, young, bald bastard, then the manager. Well, Marina can’t believe it. ‘This would never happen in Berlin’ she said, so I told her, ‘I’m coming to Berlin,’ and she said, ‘good.’ So that’s it. I’m going to Berlin.”

“Holiday ?”

“No, to live.”

Richard knew that, at least this evening, with the wine already half gone, he couldn’t put up an argument, nor would he want to. He could only face going into work because he knew it was for a specific time period then he’d be back studying. How so many people could live this life was beyond him, so he totally appreciated Chris’ idea, even if it were to remain merely a nice thought.

“So, what do you know about Berlin ?”

“Nothing !” replied Chris, defiantly. “No, wait … the Brandenburg Gate. Olympic Stadium. The Wall. Nazi’s burning books.”

“Sounds great. Grey. Rain. Men with short hair in long, leather coats, just standing on street corners, like robots.”

“Sauerkraut. Great food in general”

“Uummm … no, I’m all out. Got nothing.”

“Me neither. Oh. Marina. That’s the only reason I need.”

“Ah, I see. Here’s to Marina. Maybe I can meet her soon. ?”

They clinked and finished the wine and spent the remainder of their evening making bad German jokes. Richard wasn’t sure how much to believe, but when he met Chris the following week near China Town, he understood that it was all quite serious.

“Let’s not mention Berlin to Melanie. Could be a bit tricky.”

“OK,” said Richard. Speaking about Berlin while they were still sober proved that Chris really did intend to go. Chris, however, broke his own rule, during the second round of drinks, and Melanie was surprisingly supportive. She, of course, had been there, back in the late Eighties, had stood on the platform by the Wall, had taken a day trip into the East and had stories and advice on what to do and see. Richard began to get interested, but had to contain a smile as Chris wrote in a little notebook under the table, which he passed to him,

DON’T MENTION MARINA !!!

It was the last time the three of them drank together in London. Within a month, Richard had received the first letter from Berlin.

Richard – in trouble – please send money.

Subject Index: Writing and film

13th November 2020

Seahorse Productions: my films, theatre and writing

Ao Tuong (dreams) 2020 // short film // Seahorse Productions 30th April 2020

Bad Faith 2005 // short film // Seahorse Productions 6th May 2020

Inferno 2007 // short film // Seahorse Productions 25th May 2020

Shadow Sonata 2014 // short film // Seahorse Productions 8th June 2020

Steppenwolf (2008) 2014 // short film // Seahorse Productions 15th May 2020

Waiting Fo(u)r Godard // one-actor play / Royalty-free // Seahorse Productions 5th September 2020:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/05/waiting-fo-u-r-godard-a-play-for-one-actor-two-laptops/?fbclid=IwAR3Sbi0dIZJSQGZOVB749tNA5YSE_zYzbF2UWwEhQX92IH8gvF3ep5ptvnY

Cinema

The Cranes Are Flying // USSR, 1957 (Dir: Kalatozov) // Cinema // 13th June 2020

Distracted // UK, 2018 (Dir James Devereaux) // 9th August 2020

Harold Lloyd // Hooray for Harold Lloyd // 28th June 2020

Noirish Project // UK, 2018 (Dir James Devereaux) // 11th July 2020

Writing

Love and Chaos: A novel set in post-Wende Berlin of a pre-internet world. Set between the deaths of Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith.

Title page, photo by Ana Svarz // 11th November 2020

Contents // 11th November 2020

Part One

Richard – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/11/love-and-chaos-part-1a/

Chris – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/11/love-and-chaos-part-1b/

Melanie – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/11/7839/

Marina – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/13/love-and-chaos-part-1d-marina-1/

Richard – 2 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/14/love-and-chaos-part-1e-richard-2/

Chris – 2 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/14/love-and-chaos-part-1f-chris-2/

Claudia – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/15/love-and-chaos-part-1g-claudia/

Chris – 3 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/16/love-and-chaos-part-1h-chris-3/

Richard – 3 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/17/love-and-chaos-part-1i-richard-3/

The Divine Poet From Florence https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/17/love-and-chaos-part-1j-the-divine-poet-from-florence/

Chris – 4 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/18/love-and-chaos-part-1k-chris-4/

Shoulder – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/19/love-and-chaos-part-1l-shoulder-1/

Steffi – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/20/love-and-chaos-part-1m-steffi-1/

Part Two

Richard – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/22/love-and-chaos-part-2a-richard-1/

Chris – 1 https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/23/love-and-chaos-part-2b-chris-1/

The knock on the door https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/11/24/love-and-chaos-part-2c-the-knock-on-the-door/

Art & Literature

Three poems and some Shakespeare // Auden, Betjemin, Larkin 19th July 2020

Love and Chaos. Part 1(C) Melanie 1

12th November 2020

Photo by Pete Flatwound. Follow Pete on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flatwoundonfilm/

Part One. London. September 1992 – Spring 1993

MELANIE

Unlike Richard, who had left University more or less spontaneously, Chris had planned his gap year.

He had travelled so many times to London from the Midlands to see concerts and films, or just to savour the atmosphere of a city, that he thought he should live there for a year. He knew about the crowds, the rudeness of people, the near impossibility of making friends not to mention the astronomical cost of everything, but was prepared for this and welcomed the experience, before returning to complete the degree and then to embark on a brilliant career.

He explained this to Richard one Tuesday night in a small, quiet pub they liked near Soho Square. They had decided that it being only a Tuesday, they needed a drink. Debbie was going to join them, but cancelled and although Charlotte did come, she left after fifteen minutes, a fact that Richard vocally blamed Chris for. Chris took full responsibility.

So they were left to themselves and compared notes on their studies and on the whole student experience, both of them expressing severe disappointment and boredom. Both of them had had images of idealised college life, inspired by books and films and they, in their separate campuses, were having an increasingly difficult time reconciling fantasy with reality.

They simultaneously decided to end that conversation and broadened the topic from student life to life in general.

Their tastes in the arts, seemed to be so similar that Richard wondered if Chris was just agreeing to be polite.

Chris kept checking his watch and even ran outside, just to check the name of the pub.

“She’ll be here, soon,” he said, but didn’t elaborate.

And then Melanie arrived. For many years after, Richard was still unsure as to the extent of the relationship between her and Chris.

At that first meeting, she seemed to be just an old friend of his from the Midlands, in town for a few days, but over subsequent meetings, all in pubs or on the way to pubs, he detected that there may have been something deeper. Her manner of speaking to and about Chris showed a certain familiarity. The mocking tone and disparaging comments which alternated with sometimes quite embarrassing compliments, seemed to border on the obsessive.

A further clue may have been the fact that she was transferring to London to complete her art history course, stating that it was the obvious move, with all the galleries and resources in the capital. Richard couldn’t be certain, but he thought he saw Chris shudder upon hearing this news. She had already found a place to stay, a place which sounded far better than where either Chris or Richard lived and there was the implicit offer that Chris could move in, but that point hung in the air, unresolved.

Despite her seeming openness, and slightly forced affability, Melanie exuded an air of confidence that veered uncomfortably close to arrogance, especially when the subject of conversation was the arts.

She apparently had seen all the films worth seeing (in her irreproachable opinion), all the exhibitions worth attending, and read all the latest books worthy of her time.

She also continually caressed her short, dyed-blonde hair, as if hunting a stray hair that was causing her irritation, continually talking or drinking or gesticulating. But there was no doubt that there was something very attractive about her and Richard found her very friendly, if a little talkative.

He mentioned this to Chris when they were momentarily alone.

“She’s nice. Can certainly talk.”

“Oh, you noticed. Yes, she has opinions. Whole bloody manifestos. Don’t start her on art, there’s no off-switch. She suddenly turns into back-of-book blurb.”

Richard laughed at this reference to their work, then added, quickly,

“Quite cute, too. You and her … ?”

“She’s like a tap,” was all Chris allowed, obtusely. “Runs hot and cold.”

Before Richard could ask further, Melanie returned and more drinks were ordered and the night blurred into drinking, walking and tube tunnels that seemed to go on forever.

Melanie became such a regular drinking partner that by January, it was taken as read that she would be joining them whenever she was free, which was at least twice a week. The three went to films together, generally those selected by Melanie, the occasional museum and once or twice, money permitting, an Indian restaurant. Chris noticed that when she came to the Fordham’s staff drink, her presence seemed to deter others from speaking to them, so he tried to discourage her, to little effect.

By this time, there had been changes at Fordham’s. Angela and Debbie had both moved on to jobs in publishing, Simon and Ben had simply moved on. Derek, a full timer from Transport was now acting head of Technical and as Richard had requested a department change, he was also relocated to Chris’ section. Work now played a very poor second to ever increasing jokes.

Richard would develop a serious limp every time persistence customers demanded that he go and check the shelves for them. Chris would pretend to be a customer and stand between a genuine shopper and the shelves, blocking their view, whilst keeping a serious, searching look on his face and continuously shifting position to maintain the blockade. They would both try on new accents, a favourite being an invention of Richard, The Cockney, who would appear only when a pompously aristocratic customer demanded attention. The Cockney would normally open procedures by a friendly

“Yes, Squire, what can I do ya for ?” then loudly asking another member of staff to take over as he, “was dying for a slash.” The Cockney would often interrupt transactions, shouting across the shop floor to passing staff, “go git a cut-a-teee, there’s a luv.” which even Chris found somewhat impenetrable. However, Chris was intent not to be outdone, and on one occasion, he came into the staff room, one lunchtime, while Richard was massaging Charlotte. He didn’t have time to pass comment, as he was accosted by the most senior member of staff, an ex-public school type, wanting to know if Chris was, “The vending boy ?”

Gilbert, always dressed in blazer and tie, was having trouble getting a cup of tea. Without a flinch, Chris studied the machine and slowly drew his hand to his chin and nodded.

“I see. Forgive the question, Sir, but did you by any chance use a coin of foreign denomination ?”

“Certainly not.”

“No French Franc ? It’s easily done. You may answer without prejudice.”

“No, I used two ten-pence coins.”

“Twisted or in any way deformed ?”

“Not that I was able to ascertain.”

“Ah, ‘able to ascertain’, I see, I see. I don’t have my tools with me. They’re in the van. OK, you stay here, you stay right here and I’ll be back promptly.”

With that, Chris left, taking his coffee in the second floor staff room. He kept a low profile all afternoon as he realised that Gilbert must, at some point, emerge, and would, he predicted, not appreciate the humour.

One Saturday, Ed brought in two fez hats and dared Richard and Chris to wear them, all day. Without hesitation, they both put them on, with earnest ceremony, and won the dare. There was a tricky moment, when Chris had to deal with an irate customer who wanted to return a book, but had no receipt, and something of an Egyptian stand-off occurred, neither side backing down, until the customer threw the book into a pile and fled the shop, cursing.

There was widespread applause and laughter. Ed stood open-mouthed, and had some difficulty in asking,

“How … how did you do it ? I would have cracked up. Oh, that’s it, you’re the main man, I swear.”

General sounds of concurrence.

“You were so calm, I thought he was going to hit you. When he threw the book. And with the hat on.” Admiration from Sophie, a new girl in Biology.

“It was because I had the hat on. It’s impossible to be angry at someone in a Fez.”

“Really ?” asked Sophie, as if it were a piece of received wisdom that had so far eluded her.

“You saw for yourself,” said Richard, gesturing to the invincible Chris.

Their department became the place to hang out, not least because Chris always brought in a small radio for live football commentary. Every Saturday, Dave from the ain desk in General Fiction would pass by around ten to six, and hang out and chat while the scores came in. The rest of the week, he wouldn’t even acknowledge them.


“Our fair-weather friend,” pointed out Richard as he saw Dave coming up the escalators on cue. This time he knew about the fez incident as seemed keen to discuss it. It had been telegraphed all around the shop and everyone was impressed. Everyone, except the manager who summoned Chris to his office the following Monday and gave him an official warning. Chris observed the order of the fez by not mentioning that Richard had also sported the hat, a fact that entitled him to free drinks that night, after they decided that it was only Monday and therefore cause enough for a session.

As Spring came, Richard knew that his time was nearing its end, unless he were to be made full time. As that didn’t seem to be in the offing, he began looking around for other jobs and finally got accepted as assistant manager in a small classical record shop in the City. He had a genuine love of Classical music and that along with his experience and ability to improvise quick, impressive answers, got him the position. His happiness was tempered when it was revealed to him that the other candidates couldn’t tell their arias from their Elgars.

The timing coincided with a new, permanent manager in Technical. Nigel was in his late twenties but could well have been late forties in both appearance and mentality. He had been the manager of a bookshop in the Home Counties and acted as if he were manager of the entire Fordham’s, sometimes even referring to himself as Floor Manager, a post that simply didn’t exist.

Naturally, his style clashed with Richard, who was on his last week, and Chris, who had been happy drifting, not being told what to do. He also asked for a transfer, but with his disciplinary record, it was never going to happen. And then the incident occurred that forced the hand of the management and, indirectly, the course of their lives for the next few years.

It was a Wednesday morning in London in Spring, which meant it looked like a black and white film. The sky was grey, the roads were grey, the building were grey, the people looked grey. There was a light, persistence drizzle outside, constant and irritating.

Richard and Chris were talking about the film that Melanie had dragged them to.

“She knew who the D.P. was … I didn’t even know what the D.P. was,” said Chris.

“What a turkey. I don’t care how many festivals it won. Megabore.”

Their review was interrupted by a stern-looking customer who dripped onto the desk and looked over his glasses at them with a look of disdain and impatience. Without any introduction, he shouted out the name of a certain book, as if expecting it to be there waiting for him. Chris rose to the occasion.

Adopting a similar expression as the middle-aged man, he walked slowly, yet purposefully out from behind the desk, somewhat in the manner of a somnambulist forced to obey an inner command. He didn’t change his expression once as he told the man, in such a close repetition of his own voice that it startled Richard, to, “Follow me.”

Chris went to the nearest bookshelf and scanned first one, then another and another shelf. Slowly shaking his head, he progressed to the reverse of the unit and repeated his performance. Then onto another unit. And another, all the time, the unwitting victim trailing him and seeming to actually grow in confidence that the book would soon be discovered.

Minutes passed and Chris had covered half of the shop floor and was now busy on the second, but increasing his pace, knowing that timing is all important. Then, without a word, he disappeared down the escalators, never looking back. The man was visibly perturbed and unable to decide what to do, when he suddenly made a dash for the escalators and ran after Chris.

Richard moved over to the window, but couldn’t believe it when he saw Chris on the street below, closely followed by the hapless chap, walking over the side street and into a neighbouring bookstore. Some minutes later, Chris came out and, seeing Richard in the window, gave a thumbs up sign, which slowly sank as he saw Nigel behind Richard’s back.

Several hours later, in their usual pub, Chris explained what had happened in the manager’s office. It had been quick and painless. His pay check was already made out in cash, along with his paperwork. From that moment on, he was free to seek other employment.

“I’ll ask at Warren’s,” said Richard, referring to the new company he was to work for, “but it’s only a small shop. Maybe there’s other branches.”

“Yeah, thanks. I have to find something. I’ve got my rent covered this week, but next week could be troublesome. This,” tapping the pay pocket in his chest pocket, “isn’t going to last long, especially the way you drink.”

As reward for such an impressive joke, Richard insisted on paying, but Chris was having a hard time maintaining the good humour. Richard noticed this, after Chris had gotten up to use the toilet and the way was blocked by a young lady who was kneeling on the floor, showing a crowded table some photos.

“It’s OK, darling, just climb over my legs.” she instructed, and he did so without comment. Not even a subtle wink. Richard thought of a possibility and when Chris returned, he borrowed some change to make a call. He returned, smiling.

“Right, it’s not much, but it’s something.”

“What ?” asked Chris, without enthusiasm.

“Better than nothing. A place to start, Pay the rent, anyway.”

“What are you talking about ?”

“I’ve got you an interview tomorrow at Howard’s. I used to work there, before Fordham’s, so I called the manager and he’ll see you, two-thirty tomorrow. Ask for Mr …”

“Howard ?”

“Sealey. You’ll like him, he’s a character. Bit of a sergeant-major type and sometimes, to be honest, a bit whiffy. But he owns four stores, so good for him.”

Richard went on to tell about the job, how it would be quite hard, never a chance to sit down and about the type of produce and client.

“You’ll be dealing with Earls and Barons and minor members of the Royal Family.”

“Really ?”

“Oh, yeah. Awfully nice, actually. Charming, be that as it may, most people are quite polite but you will get those who’ll treat you like shit. You’ll learn humility.”

“And the money ?”

“Yeah, it’s not great, but you get lunch and leftovers. Two-thirty tomorrow. Don’t wear the fez.”

“Thanks. Good advice. Now, I appear to have a fistful of dollars. What shall we drink ?”

Love and Chaos Part 1(B) Chris – 1

12th November 2020

Part One. London. September 1992

The first time Chris met Richard, he was asked for a urine sample. From that moment, their lives began to follow a totally unexpected trajectory.

Richard was impressed by Chris’ ability to remain calm and unflustered, while Chris was relieved to find someone who not only shared his sense of humour, but seemingly surpassed it. The meeting, Chris punned, was a watershed; Richard was literally taking the piss.

Chris had just started working at Fordham Books & Tapes, the company name itself being just one of the many anomalies that he was to encounter. The shop hadn’t ordered any audio tapes for years and was aggressively but unsuccessfully trying to rid the shelves of those dust-gathering relics with ‘two-for-one’ sales, ‘three-for-a-fiver’ sales and so forth.

On his first day, after a brief form-filling introduction by one of the company secretaries, Chris was given the low down on how things really were by Angela, his department head. Her manner, like her clothes and general mien, was down-to-earth, homely (he didn’t want to say ‘frumpy’).

The store was likened to an eastern bloc country, an endless, impenetrable labyrinth whose sole purpose was to confuse and depress. Whatever book the customer wanted would be here, but the exact whereabouts was anybody’s guess. It would never be found, that was everybody’s experience.

Angela went on to joke that not only the Minotaur, but dodos and Japanese soldiers could be encountered amongst the endless miles of shelving. She rather over-did the analogy, Chris felt, but at least she was friendly. The other two men working there had formed their own select clique, and greeted him, one by a half-hearted, “All right ?”, the other with a somewhat begrudging nod of the head.

The first day was confused uncertainty, not being able to discern staff from customer and not being exactly sure what he was supposed to be doing. While Angela unpacked boxes, priced books, checked invoices, Ben and Simon sat and talked, read books and drank coffee. They explained it was pointless learning the names of new staff, as the turnover was so high, nobody could keep up.

Angela suggested he familiarise himself with the stock, so Chris walked around, wondering what use his Physics course would be in the Technical Department which covered such diverse subjects as ergonomics, DIY, Geography and concrete. A whole wall unit, shelf upon shelf, about concrete.

As he was trying to create the barest semblance of appearing to know what the job entailed, Chris saw a tall, dark-haired man approach Angela. He appeared to be asking for something, then began making a buzzing, humming sound, miming the use of the desired apparatus.

“Yes, I know what a Hoover is.”

“I didn’t want to imply that because you’re a woman, you would automatically be au fait with items of domestic usage.”

“Well, I don’t have it.”

“Have what ?”

Angela merely went back to work and the young man, obviously staff from a different department, moved over to speak with Ben or Simon. Chris had made a point of not learning their individual names.

Three times a day there was a collection from all the cash desks. Two members of staff received metal boxes where bank notes were deposited and brought them down to the basement office.

On the fifth morning of his new job, Chris was behind the till with Ben and Simon, it being Angela’s free day. At the approximate time, two staff appeared for collection and Chris recognised the man who had asked for the Hoover. He handed the box over which the man passed to his colleague, then consulted a clipboard, eyebrows furrowed.

“Ah, yes … you must be … Chris. Good morning, I’m Richard. Would you be so kind as to fill this ?” He handed Chris a specimen jar, then continued, “and I have heard all the jokes before: no you do not have to fill it up to the top, yes, you may take a wee while and so on. There’s a good chap, take it to the manager when you’re done. Problem ? You have been … I don’t believe it. You weren’t told, were you ? I really must have a word with Doris, that’s twice this month. Puts me in a somewhat delicate … Awfully sorry, but it’s company policy to carry out random drug checks. All in the contract. Don’t worry, it happens once, twice, at most.”

Just then the act was spoilt as Ben couldn’t contain his laughter.
“You should of seen your face. Looked like you were gonna shit yourself.”

“Then he could have given a shit sample,” added his sidekick.

“Now, now chaps, ladies present and all that, keep it clean. Sorry, Chris. You played along well. You’re a good sport.”

“You really had me there. I was worried because I’ve just been and didn’t think I could go again.”

“He got me with Arabic lessons,” said Simon. Richard elaborated,

“Yeah that was a good one. I pretended that the staff had to attend mandatory Arabic lessons once a week.”

“He was so convincing, giving it all, “Oh, it ain’t much, just a few phrases, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and counting and ‘no we do not stock it but would be happy to order it for you.’ Bastard.”

Just then Debbie, the poor young lady struggling with all the metal boxes, suggested that they get back to work.

“Why ?” asked Richard, “this is Fordham’s B and T. Nihil fiendo factus. Nothing can be done, roughly translated, the Fordham’s motto and you’d do well to learn it. How’s it working out, so far ?”

“Could be worse. I didn’t expect to be in Technical. Not what I studied.”

“Let me guess. Physical Education degree ?”

Chris was slightly shorter than Richard who was close to six foot, had large, blue eyes, a straight, slightly pointed nose, light brown hair and a very slight build.

“Home economics.”

“Very good. You’ve heard about the Friday drinks ? No, I’m serious now, right ?” He appealed to Debbie who, while being quite attractive and pleasant, didn’t seem the joking sort. She nodded, adding that Chris should come.

Just before Seven that evening, Chris found himself next to Richard in a local bar. They clinked their beer glasses.

“Didn’t think you’d be a beer drinker, “ said Chris, “thought you’d order a strawberry daiquiri.”


“I had one for lunch.” Richard introduced Chris to the staff that had turned up. Chris tried to catch Debbie’s eye, see if there was any possibility of a work romance, but the outlook wasn’t encouraging.

Richard gave some background, a mixture of fact and gossip and, Chris suspected, fabrication when the truth seemed to lack a certain bite, and he appreciated the effort.

At the moment, there were four inter-departmental romances going on. Ben in technical was seeing a girl called Geri in economics, a situation that Richard loved, but no one else seemed to notice. The pompous head of history was seeing the lovely new Spanish girl who was having a mock war with a young man in Education who was Catalan, who in turn was seeing a much older women in Sociology. Finally, Ed in sports was engaged to Nicola in General Fiction.

Chris and Richard spoke about work. Chris couldn’t believe how lax the shop was. An Italian girl who worked in children’s interjected that at Fordham’s, “You can do work or not do any work and it doesn’t matter.” Richard could only nod in agreement at the sage reflection.

Chris spoke about his first week. He gave his opinion of Angela, very nice, obviously gay (erroneous) and Ben and Simon, obviously idiots (irrefutable.) They all joined in with horror stories about customers.

“Have you noticed,” asked Ed, “that they all say, ‘I’m looking for a book,’ then shut up, as if I have to guess which one ?”

“I always say, ‘ you’re looking for a book ? You’ve come to the right place,’ and they laugh,” said Nicola.

“I always say ‘You’ve come to the wrong place,’ but they don’t laugh,” Richard responded. Chris already had a story:

“One customer looked all around and then asked, ‘Where are the books ?’ Have you seen my department ? Books everywhere, even hanging from the ceiling”

“So what did you say ?” a girl from drama asked.

“I said that I wasn’t altogether certain, but that they must be around here somewhere.”

Later, Richard and Chris learnt that they had two things in common. They were both physics students and they both loved a drink. They were the last of the staff to leave and then it was just to find an ATM and another pub.

The next day, the busy Saturday, they learnt another fact: they could both work with dreadful hangovers.

Love and Chaos Part 1(A) Richard – 1

11th November 2020

The decline of Tottenham Court Road, former electronics capital of London –  urban75 photo features

Part One. London. August 1991 – September 1992

Everything came to a head for Richard Marshall that summer.

The University course and campus life was nowhere near as exciting as he had been expecting; no budding life-long friendships, merely uninspiring inoffensive exchanges with fellow students. The lectures either confused or bored him. Indeed, as the year progressed, he felt the only reason he went at all, was to get away from the bed-sit.

The bed-sit. Another way life was cheating him. The landlord, a rather over-familiar sort, had oversold it, telling him what was going to happen, what improvements were going to be made, how the washing machine would “soon” be repaired and Richard had believed all of it. But one point irritated him beyond all others.

When he had been shown the house, he had glimpsed a very attractive girl hanging her washing in the garden, said washing consisting solely, it seemed, of black lingerie. He didn’t know that it was her last week in the house and that she would be gone before he arrived.

A suitable metaphor of his luck. No wild student parties, no hot flat-mates running around in skimpy underwear.

The house was home to a bleak collection of loners and misfits: a recently divorced teacher, a prudish secretary, a Danish student, unbelievably arrogant, and a girl about whom he knew little and wished to know even less. Unfortunately her boyfriend had semi-officially moved in and tended to walk around the house singing, “Arsenal, Arsenal.”

Richard had to move and to do that, he needed money. To do anything in London, he needed money, so that made the decision easier; he wouldn’t go back for the second year of the Physics degree, but would take some time out, get a job, save up.

Initially, he went to a temp agency and got some unskilled factory work, then unskilled kitchen work, then progressed to a record store, for the Christmas rush, subsequently onto a bigger branch in the new year, then to a provisions shop in the West End. He moved to a better bed-sit, bigger room, less tenants. He enjoyed being able to buy food other than dried beans, and had signaled his new affluence with five different types of deodorant.

One day he was in Fordham Books & Tapes, looking at the well-stocked Physics Department, and began a conversation with the elegant Finnish lady who worked there. He jokingly asked about a job and she told him that with his background in physics and a university education, he had a good chance, providing he applied before the post-study student onslaught.

Thus, at the beginning of June 1992, having passed the perfunctory interview, Richard began working at Fordham’s, being offered Physics or Medicine. On his first day he was directed to his new post; the Theology Department.

That gave him plenty of scope for jokes, but they, like the work, soon got tired. He was alone in the small top floor corner of the immense five-floor store, and found himself dealing not with quiet vicars or gentle old ladies, but obnoxious occultists who cursed him for not stocking out-of-print diabolical texts or people proclaiming that they would be paying in Dollars, as printed on the back cover. Every second customer demanded a discount because they were buying Bibles and how dare he profit off the prophets. Richard became very familiar with camels and needles.

Evidently, working in a bookshop in the West End would be no picnic. The threats of assault, the atmosphere of barely repressed anger and frustration and the constant alerts for shoplifters and pickpockets made for an unpleasant environment. Something had to done.

Richard, at first, dressed the part, turning up in a suit, causing no end of amusement among the other staff who were very causally dressed. He toned down, by degree, but still chose to wear a smart shirt and more often than not, a tie, though now it was more for irony than fashion. It also helped in the playing of pranks.

By mid August, there was no pretence that this was in any way a serious job. It paid a weekly wage, but staff were mostly on temporary contracts. This created an attitude where as long as staff did the minimum required, and most of them did, and no more, they would be left alone to do as they pleased.

Richard had been a fan of Mark Twain, more specifically Tom Sawyer and how he wouldn’t just sit back, like Huck Finn, and allow things to happen, but would instigate them. He must follow the same approach.

At first, he left his department, which was hardly a hub of activity, to talk to other members of staff. Philosophy was next door, but the staff were too pretentious, as if it were they who had actually written the books, so Richard peregrinated further, eventually covering most of the five floors. He would go up to the desks and ask the staff if everything was OK. Afterwards, he would explain that he was doing the regulation ‘OK check’. The foreign staff seemed to respond better to this than the British who mainly just looked at him and shook their heads.

One night, after clocking out, an unpleasant, heavily-built man, working in Military, got out of the staff lift, letting the door swing back into young Charlotte (who was in classics), giving her a hefty blow to the head. Charlotte was one of several women that Richard liked and had frequently flirted, innocently, with when their lunch breaks coincided.

Richard, who comprised the third person in the lift, had just cause to caress Charlotte’s head and plant a gentle kiss there. Unfortunately she had a second job to get to and therefore couldn’t go for a drink, to help ‘numb the pain’.

A few days later, and for several weeks thereafter, the villain of the piece received, among the usual delivery of books on uniforms, weaponry and famous battles, various self-help books on dealing with obesity, addressed to him, personally. Ordering books was just a phone call and a Department number away.

The next step was harassing new staff with instructions to meet him half an hour before work in the office, on the following Friday, for the informal Arabic lessons.

Four months into his contract, having already decided that he needed at least another year to save up before continuing his degree, Richard saw that there was a new intake of staff. He checked out the fresh victims, deciding that the two women were not suitable at all, but that the lanky lost-looking lad in Technical was a prime target. He went to the first floor, ostensibly to borrow a Hoover, but more to get background information. After a brief chat with Angela, he went over to the desk where Simon and Ben were engaged in one of their inane conversations.

“What’s the new guy’s name ?”

“Dirk,” offered Simon.

“No it ain’t, it’s Chris Somingkkk.”

“Well, which one is it ?”

“What you going to do this time ? Arabic ?” asked Ben.

“No, got something a little more … you’ll see. So, who is he ?”

“Yeah, Ben’s right, Chris’s his moniker. Friday’s best, no Angela.”

“Friday ? Right. You’ll both be here ? Good. Just follow my lead. No giggling.”

That lunchtime, Richard went out and bought a specimen jar from a nearby chemists.

Love and Chaos: Contents

11th November 2020

Contents

Part One: London / Berlin August 1991 – September 1993

Richard – 1 London August 1991 – September 1992
Chris – 1 London September 1992
Melanie London September 1992 – Spring 1993
Marina London Spring 1993
Richard – 2 London Spring 1993
Chris – 2 Berlin Spring 1993
Claudia Berlin Spring 1993
Chris – 3 Berlin Spring – Summer 1993
Richard – 3 Berlin September 1993
The Divine Poet From Florence
Chris – 4 Berlin September 1993
Shoulder Berlin September 1993
Steffi Berlin September 1993

Part Two: Berlin November 1993

Richard – 1 London / Berlin Sept – Nov 1993
Chris – 2 Berlin November 1993
The Knock On The Door
Will Berlin November 1993
Firefly Prologue
Firefly
Nuno Berlin November 1993
Chris – 2 Berlin November 1993
Richard – 2 Berlin November 1993

Part Three: London / Berlin Spring – Summer 1994

Richard – 1 London Spring 1994
Chris – 1 Berlin Spring 1994
Kurt
Richard – 2 London Summer 1994
Hitch
Chris – 2 Berlin Summer 1994

Part Four: Berlin Summer 1994

Richard – 1 Berlin Summer 1994
Lorelei – 1 Berlin Summer 1994
Chris – 1 Berlin Summer 1994
The Concert of Grotesques
Gabi – 1 Berlin Summer 1994
Chris – 2 Berlin Summer 1994
Monika – 1 Berlin Summer 1994
Richard – 1 Berlin Summer 1994
Arizona Al – 1 Berlin Summer 1994

Part Five: Berlin Autumn – Winter 1994

How A Coffee Break Started A New Scientific Theory
Chris – 1 Berlin Autumn 1994
Richard – 1 Berlin Autumn 1994
Burkhard – 1 Berlin Autumn 1994
Chris – 2 Berlin Autumn 1994
Tommy – 1 Berlin Autumn 1994
Tommy – 2 Berlin Autumn 1994
Richard – 2 Berlin Autumn 1994
Chris – 1 Berlin Autumn 1994
Sylvester – 1 Berlin New Year’s Eve 1994

Part Six: Berlin / Winter – Spring 1995

Chris – 1 Berlin January 1995
Monika – 1 Berlin January 1995
Richard – 1 Berlin February 1995
Three English Portraits
Arizona Al – 1 Berlin February 1995
Monika – 2 Berlin February 1995
Johan – 1 Berlin February 1995
Descriptions Of ADoctor
Jake – 1 Berlin February 1995
Chris – 2 Berlin March 1995
Richard – 2 Berlin March 1995
Daniel – 1 Berlin April 1995

Part Seven: Berlin / London / USA Spring – Summer 1995

Stefan – 1 Berlin Spring 1995
Daniel – 1 Berlin May 1995
Chris – 1 Berlin May 1995
Boris – 1 Berlin
Ragno Prologue Berlin Summer 1995
Ragno – 1 Berlin early – mid 1990’s
Richard – 1 Berlin June 1995
Daniel – 2 Berlin June 1995
Monika – 1 Berlin June 1995
Alan – 1 London July 1995
Eric – 1 L.A. USA July 1995

Part Eight: Berlin. Summer 1995

Alan – 1 Berlin August 1995
CallMeHerman
Chris – 1 Berlin August 1995
Richard – 1 Berlin August 1995
Julie – 1 Berlin September 1995
Chris – 2 Berlin September 1995
Daniel – 1 Berlin October 1995
Alan – 2 Berlin October 1995

Part Nine: Berlin.

Daniel – 1 Berlin November 1995
Johanna – 1 Berlin
Serge – 1 Berlin