Love and Chaos Part 4(I) Arizona Al 1

21st January 2021

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, grass, outdoor and nature
With Jeff, the inspiration for Arizona Al, Humannplatz, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin 1994

Part Four. Berlin. Summer 1994

“So I met this guy at Café Radetzky and we’re having a good talk, and he’s, you know, cool an’ all, digs the right music, but I can’t shake this feeling that I’ve met him before. So we’re talking and I say where I’m from and, you know, the usual, what I’m doing in Berlin an’ all, when he stops me and says, ‘Hey it’s so cool to meet another dude from Arizona, because I met a real crazy shithead from there a coupla weeks back, and he was just out of it, talking non stop about nothing, and he had all this hair and beard and shit’. And I suddenly realized; he was talking about me ! Yeah, I hadn’t cut my hair, and I had this Fu Manchu thing going on, and that’s where I knew him from … some bar I’d been to, totally out of it. I’m gonna have to stop doin’ that kinda shit.“

Chris turned his head away, so as to wink at Richard. They were meeting in a Café on a late Summer afternoon.

“But, you know, so much of Berlin is hidden, it’s like I can see tourists coming here and going to the usual sights …”

“Which won’t take long,” interrupted Chris.

“… right, an Arch, an old sports stadium, a bit of old Wall, the Death Star.”

Both Richard and Chris laughed at Al’s description of the T.V. Tower, a giant, glass globe surmounting a tall, fluted concrete tower.

“Then going home and wondering why Berlin’s got such a reputation, when nothing appears to be happening. But you know what ? It’s not that things happen in Hinterhof’s, things happen in the hinter of Hinterhof’s. In basements, behind closed doors, over disused shops. When I was first here and didn’t know where to go, I’d just look for cool people and follow them, see where they’re going. Found some great bars that way.”

Richard glanced over at Chris, who waved him in.

“But … didn’t you ever end up just following people home, sometimes ?”

“Oh, yep.”

Chris followed through,

“And they didn’t mind ?”

“Well, they thought it was a little odd, guess, but … no, not really. Oh, I did ask one guy where the hip bars were and he told me to ‘piss off!’ ”

Chris thought for a minute.

“Are you sure ? Could he have been saying, ‘Pass auf ‘ ?”

“Well, it was a ways back. But … yeah, ‘spose. Why ?”

“It means listen, pay attention, watch out. He was probably about to give you directions …”

“Oh, man ! I ask him to get some place, he says, ‘OK, dude, listen up’ and I just walk away. What must he’d a thought of me ?”

“That you were a crazy shithead ?” joked Richard.

The subject moved from general rubbish to women, Al approving of Lorelei, describing her as ‘bodacious’, then onto work, which was why Al had requested this get together.

“OK, just a heads-up, there’s gonna be some changes at the studio. They’ll gonna be laying a lot of people off, making some big changes.”

“No ! Shit. I like it there.”

“You should be all right, but they’re changing the schedule, the whole ‘come as you are, go whenever the fuck’ routine. Good thing, too, ‘sa crazy way to runa business. They want people putting in minimum twenty hours a week, and booking in. Get these guys coming in, hour or two, costs more to keep track of them. There’s at least one big project coming up, and they’re gonna need staff they can rely on. I mean, costs are still low in Berlin, but there’s always talk of shipping the work to some Third World place, and pay ‘em Jack shit. And there getting heavy on the paperwork, too, no more casual work, everyone’s gotta have their Lohnsteurkarte’s and Angemälden … you got those yet, Richy ?”

Al was the only person who could say ‘Richy’ and not make it sound like an insult.

“No. Got nothing yet.”

“Wait. I’ve got an idea,” said Chris. “They need full timers; cool. And I’ve got all the bloody German paperwork. But I can’t do both jobs. If I do the Studio, forty hours, I won’t need the washing-up shit. Then Richy, er, Richard can have it. No paperwork, no questions, cash in hand, free beer, cute waitresses … “

“What, like Ully ?”

“With the thing, yes, I know, but there are others.”

Al followed the conversation as if it were a tennis match, but with the players hitting some unusual, suspect backhanders.

“Yeah, like, whatever happened to Hannah ? She was gorgeous.”

“Left. Got a proper job. Never saw her again.”

“I know. To think … I almost got her to come out with us. I think Melanie scared her off.”

“I think so, too. Marina’s leaving. Did I tell you ? Leaving Berlin.”

“No !”

“Yeah, that Arschloch Ross is doing some building project in Köln. Maybe just for six months, but … we won’t see her again, either.”

“What about Claudia ?”

“Hardly ever see her. She comes in when I’m not there, or … I think she has other jobs.” Chris sought to bring Al back into the conversation. “You know her, Al, Claudia. I stayed with her when I first got here.”

“Claudia … nope, don’t think so.”

“Yes, German girl, really foxy, Irish accent, walks like a cat, looks like she’s just woke up. I introduced you to her. A few times.”

“No, pullin’ a blank. What about her ?”

“I don’t know. Richard, what about her ?”

“That’s what I asked you ?”

“I don’t know. Al, what about Claudia ?”

“Which one’s Claudia … ?”

And so the afternoon wore on. Chris left for work, promising to ask Walter if Richard could take his job, knowing that not only would they not care, they probably wouldn’t even notice, one Spüler being pretty much like any other.

Al and Richard went to get some cheap food, then Al promised to take him to some bars around the southern end of Schönhauser Allee that he had discovered by the ‘follow the cool guy’ method.

At the same time as Chris got to work, Ross entered a bar in Köln, along with some new colleagues. He spoke about the job opportunities in Berlin, but said that he wanted both a new challenge and to live in a city that had a higher standard of living.

The next day, one of his new colleagues told some Irish friends over lunch break about Berlin. One of these was leaving soon for London, where he would work on a building site and tell his new mates about Germany. One of these left to go to another site, where he told his new mates on tea break. One of these workers was a young man called Daniel Roth who had left school with three low grade qualifications, much to the chagrin of his teachers who couldn’t understand how so intelligent a boy would refuse to study. Daniel had been working around building sites for five years, making a living, but finally waking up to the fact that the only person he was hurting by his rebellion was himself.

Throughout the afternoon, Daniel pumped the new man for information, making him repeat all he had heard, about work, paperwork, the practicalities about living in Berlin and how to actually go about finding a job there.

At the end of the shift, Daniel was invited to the pub and was expected to accept. Instead, he told his mates that he had a hot bird that he wanted to shag before he lost interest, and he was excused.

Instead, he went directly to his small, local library, and though the stock was limited, he managed to pick up a history of modern Germany, a guide book to Berlin and a basic German language course.

Before he went to sleep, he had taught himself the verbs ‘to have’ and ‘to be’ in German and had started to conjugate them. Then he began inventing a story about the woman he had spent the night with, because his work mates would be expecting it and would want to hear all the details.

Love and Chaos Part 4(B) Lorelei 1

18th December 2020

Photo by Niall Keohane. Follow Niall on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flatwoundonfilm/

Part Four. Berlin. Summer 1994

Lorelei rested her head in her hands, elbows on the café table, and slowly shook her head, lightly brushing away some strands of her wavy, brown hair that had fallen over her almond-shaped, chestnut-coloured eyes.

“It’s not working with Robert. I have to leave, I have to leave !”

Silke, without finishing her mouthful of roll, agreed,

“Yes, we’ve been saying this for ages. Why are you still with him ?”

“But it’s such a nice flat,” added Gabi, between delicate spoonfuls of yoghurt and muesli.

“So she moves to the east. We have nice flats here, too.”

Gabi didn’t answer Monika. She may enjoy partying in the east, but there was no way she would ever live there.

“I know a guy who may let me stay with him.”

“Yeah, I bet I can guess the rent,” said Silke, making her meaning clear by using a banana as visual aid. The others laughed, though only Monika found it truly funny. Gabi was worried that other people may see (they did; the level of conversation noticeably dropped).

“No, he’s gay.”

“Oh, yes, listen,” began Silke, “when it comes to that, men don’t care how they get it. Man, woman, appliance “

United chorus of disapproval. Silke stood her ground,

“When I worked at that doctor’s reception, you couldn’t believe how many men came in with bits of vacuum cleaner hanging off their dicks.”

Gabi tried sshhh-ing her, but Monika’s laugh drowned it. Lorelei was wondering how the conversation had taken such a turn, then remembered that Silke was there.

Monika returned the tangent subject back to the main topic.


“I know a secret.”

The girls immediately quietened down, and leant forward. Monika waited, building tension, a little trick she had inadvertently picked up from Chris.

“What do you think of Richard ?”

“Chris’ friend ?” Asked Silke.

“Seemed nice. I couldn’t say much to him. I tried, but I just forgot all my English,” explained Gabi. “He was speaking to Lori, a lot. He was funny, no ?”

“Yeah,” admitted Lorelei, sensing all eyes on her, and feeling herself blush, “he’s nice. Interesting. I couldn’t understand everything. He listened to me, as well”

“Marry him !” demanded Silke.

“I thought you didn’t believe in marriage ?” from Gabi.

“I don’t, not for me,” Silke laughed back, “but when does Robert ever listen to her ? Just, ‘where is my wurst ? Where is my big, fat, juicy wurst … “

“Silke !” Gabi remonstrated, but knowing that she was only encouraging her. Monika tried again.

“Because I think he likes you.”

“He’s nice. Very friendly.”

“Ah, shit, woman, wake up, he wants to fuck you.”

Monika didn’t deny Silke’s assertion, though tried to tone it down,

“I think he is interested in you.”

“But she has a boyfriend,” objected Gabi, genuinely shocked.

“Yes, and ? One that doesn’t screw her. What use is that ? That’s what vibrators are for. Don’t leave stinky socks around, or fart-up the bed, either.”

“You would like a vibrator that makes farting noises ?” asked Monika, making alternate buzzing and farting noises.

Even Silke found that too much, and threw her napkin at Monika, who was too busy laughing to defend herself.


Lorelei was feeling a little uncomfortable and was hoping the conversation would veer off into another direction, but Gabi asked,

“And, Lori … do you like Richard ?”

Silence over the table.

“Yes. I like him … but not like that.”

“Now, Andreas screws me whenever I want it, which is always. He doesn’t do much else.”

“Still no job ?” inquired Monika about Silke’s special friend.

“Ah, man, he has some stupid ideas about selling old records at the Sunday market. Records. Nobody plays records anymore. He makes ten, twenty Marks and thinks he’s a big business man. I’d dump him if he wasn’t such a great fuck.”

“And what is with you and Sebastian ?” asked Monika to Gabi. She responded by shaking her head and making a gesture of hopelessness.

“It’s comfortable. Safe. It’s just not going anywhere.”

“So it’s going down the toilet ! What’s it like with an Englishman, Moni ? What do they say ? A stiff upper dick ?”

“Ach ! It’s going well. It’s good Richard is here, gives me a break. When they are together, I can’t keep up. Just talk, talk, talk. Can’t even tell who’s talking. They sound the same, blah, blah, blah. I’m not sure they ever get to a point. They use the same words and expressions. Just as my English gets good, they start all American slang and bullshit.”

“And the other thing ?” Asked Gabi. Monika finished her coffee and sighed.

“Yes. Still a problem. An issue. He doesn’t understand. Just because he’s not in her flat, it’s her friend’s, and she keeps all her shit there. She’ll have to get them sometime.” For the first time, there was silence. Monika always got upset speaking about Ute and the flat.

Lorelei tried helping,

“But he loves you. That is obvious. You are lucky.”

“Yes, I know, but … ah, I go there and I can feel her. Smell her. I just … don’t like it.”


“So ? Move to Prenzlauer Berg. Let him move in with you.”

“No !,” responded Silke to Gabi’s suggestion, “she’s got to have her freedom, somewhere to go after they fight. Make him move to Kreutzberg.”

“I’m looking out for places. So if you hear of anything … “

“Yeah, sure. And you, Gabi ? Found a love-shack ?”

“Not yet.”

“What about Richard ?”

“Well … don’t know. Won’t be able to speak to him.”

“Believe me, that is a bonus, not a problem. OK, it’s your birthday soon. We’ll buy you a giant dildo,” promised Silke.

“That farts and says, ‘where’s my beer ?’” added Monika

They all laughed and continued their lunch, except Lorelei, who rested her head in her hands and stared at the table, lost in thought.

Love and Chaos Part 3(B) Chris 1

6th December 2020

Image by Harald Ansorge from the music video ‘dwot’. Watch, like and subscribe on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxJBbyKLlp0

Part Three. Berlin. Spring 1994

“Says he’s working for a temp agency again. As kitchen porter. Fucking Hell! “

Chris broke off to explain to Monika about Richard’s job, then continued reading the letter.

“And he misses Berlin. Good. He should come back. We could find him a job, couldn’t we ?’

“For sure. He has been here, before ?’

The story of how they met and Richard’s two trips to Berlin were briefly related. Chris took a bite of toast as Monika poured more coffee, and read further, nodding. It wasn’t in the letter, but he had obviously seen Melanie, as he had the new address. One line made him exclaim;

“Yeah, that’s right, Dude, you coulda.”

Monika looked over, her icy blue eyes asking for clarification. Her English was only basic and Chris’ use of slang and Americanisms sometimes threw her.

“Oh, he’s just saying how he if he’d stayed at Uni, he’d of graduated by now. Last year, in fact. Ha, then he jokes about what he’s done, instead. A year at a bookshop, six months at a record store, six weeks in Berlin, the rest washing kitchen floors. What’s this ?”

“What is ?” asked Monika, in her heavy accent.

“I dunno, something about being locked in a freezer. ”

“So ? Is he coming over ? I think you would like that, no ?”

“Yeah, I would.”

“Does he need a flat ? I could ask The Gang.”

“No, he’ll stay here. After Rigaer Strasse, this is a palace. What time do you start ?”

“One. I told you.”

“Just checking. So we have time.”

“For what ?” asked Monika, with mock innocence. Chris raised his eyebrows and smiled.

Love and Chaos Part 3(A) Richard 1

5th December 2020

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

Part Three. London. Spring 1994

“So one of the chefs tells me to clean out the large, vegetable freezer and I’m in there, scraping frozen crap off the shelves and sweeping up lumps of … I don’t know what. Then, this other chef appears, young guy, tall and gormless, carrying a clipboard. It’s part of his job to make routine checks on the temperatures, every day, same time. Now, the door’s open because, right, I’m in there, doing their shitty work. Gormless looks at the temperature gauge and, naturally, it’s way up, and he freaks out. This has never happened before, it’s an anomaly, except, of course, he wouldn’t know what an anomaly was, because he’s a chef, and of all the qualifications needed for that job, intelligence ain’t one of them. “

“So,” asked Melanie, unaccustomed to keeping quiet for long, “you’re saying he’s not too bright ?”

“As two short planks. Now, here’s the rub; he has to think.”

“Ouch !”

“In spades, and he really does, no bullshit, man, stand there, gob wide-open, dribble trickling down, you can hear the spokes turning, slow, slow, then … light bulb above the head, he comes up with a solution, though he’s probably more used to sniffing solutions that in coming up with them. Be that as it may, he says, proud as Punch, ‘I’ve gotta closer door, Mate.’ And proceeds to do same.”

“What did you do ?”

“I objected, of course. I’m in a bloody freezer, in just a T-shirt, and he wants to close the door on me. Apart from the fact that the temperature is going to go down to minus Twenty-Five or whatever, the perishing light will go out ! They’ll go back to get some peas, and find me frozen like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’.”

“The situations you find yourself in,” joked Melanie as Richard once again got the sense that she was laughing explicitly at him, not his anecdote.

“But he wouldn’t be told. I tried to explain the law of manslaughter to him, and that being a fucking moron was no defence. No avail. So I just left it. I mean, the freezer’s working, everything is stone cold and the only reason the gauge is up is because the door’s open. Use some initiative; fake the temperature. But no, he can’t do that, has to carry out his orders, do his duty. Then his girlfriend walked past and gave one of those, ’look what I have to put up with’ expressions, deep intake off breathe, then followed by the,’But I love him all the same, the big lumock’ look.”

“What’s she like ?”

“Not bad, kinda cute. OK, bit on the chubby side, but good features. Lovely eyes. Too good for him. What I should have done was to hit him on the head with a bag of frozen cauliflower. We got time for one more, or shall we go ?”

For the past month or so, Richard had been meeting up with Melanie and seeing movies or just having a drink. This evening, they were in a small pub by Leicester Square, before going to see a film based in post-war Berlin. It was a disappointing mess of a co-production, with a British actor giving a one-dimensional portrayal of an American, an American actor giving an unconvincing, stiff-upper lipped rendition of a Englishman and an Italian beauty attempting to be an ugly German. But, at one point during the film, there was an interior scene showing a room with an Ofen. Richard and Melanie poked each other on the leg and laughed. They left as soon as the film finished, heading straight back to the pub. They covered the usual topics: Richard’s awful job, awful love-life, awful everything. It seemed to cheer Melanie up.

“No regrets about leaving the record store ? I mean, it was regular work.”

“Not really. Couldn’t go back there, anyway, they would have sacked me for taking off too much time. And for what ? Berlin in Winter. Barely even saw Chris.”

This was the link Melanie was waiting for, and she barely listened to the rest of his speach.

“I can understand what Will meant, now, about not being able to work with people. I mean, my job really is shit, but at least I don’t have to deal with … the public. Book shops and classical music, sounds like ‘green and pleasant land’ material, but it’s the Mean Streets. In Fordham’s I devised a theory. People were in a bad mood because they came in to buy books that they couldn’t find, couldn’t afford and didn’t want. As for the Classical Music lot … I tell you, you won’t find a more arrogant bunch of self-loving Arschlochs than music students. Makes me miss my old physics gang. “

If Richard hoped Melanie would take up this cue, he was mistaken.

“Speaking of Chris, I got a letter from him recently. Are you still in touch ? You know he’s moved, now, and got a new girlfriend ? Oh, yes, much better by the sounds of it. I didn’t like Ute at all. I knew it wouldn’t last.”

This was all news to Richard, who hadn’t heard from Berlin since he left, the previous November. Melanie brought him up to speed, taking secret pleasure in being the one with the information.

Ute had decided to go back to Hamburg, possibly having something to do with the suspicious phone calls and letters that periodically arrived and which she read privately and hid at the back of a cupboard. Chris seemed somehow prepared, as if expecting it. Soon after, he was in love with a new woman. Her name was Monika and she was Austrian.

“She doesn’t stand any nonsense, by the sounds of it. She’ll keep Chris in line. My kind of girl. That’s what you need, a good, strong, Germanic girl.”

Richard was very close to admitting that right now he’d settle for any kind of girl, but didn’t want to give Melanie too much ammunition.

“So he’s still at the restaurant ?“

“Oh, yes, he says they’ll probably make him a chef before long.”

“Please, no more talk about chefs.”

“And the new place. In Prenzlauer Berg.”

“Oh, that’s much better. The flat in Rigaer Strasse … I’ve tried telling people about it and no one believes me.”

“I know, they look at me and think how could someone like me possibly spend time there.”

“Quite. Oh, there was something else weird happen after you left. Every night, about six o’clock for an hour, the water from the toilet sink had an electric charge.”

“No !”

“There you are, trying to wash yourself, two inches at a time, and no cheap cracks, Lady, and suddenly … the water gives you an electric shock. Only in Berlin. Still … “

“What, you miss it ?”

“Yeah. Sometimes. I don’t know. I’ve never lived there. Maybe November was especially bad. The weather. Chris being preoccupied. So, Monika … ? “

Richard enjoyed these after-work evenings and found Melanie good company. She introduced him to a lot of films and authors he wouldn’t otherwise have know, and got him out of the bedsit. The film about Berlin, and the conversation about Chris had provoked conflicting thoughts about that city. The November nightmares began to fade, as the good times of September asserted themselves; amazing squat bars, friendly, open people, an easier pace of life. U-bahns that arrived on time. A population less than half of London’s. Women, girls, young ladies. Hannah. Maybe she was still at the bar … or Monika … she must have friends. Maybe it was time to re-open diplomatic ties between London and Berlin.

Love and Chaos Part 2(G) Nuno 1

1st December 2020

Part Two. Berlin. November 1993

Richard waited at Tegal for the late afternoon flight from London, and saw Nuno emerge from passport control with a large canvass bag effortlessly slung over his shoulder. He seemed to be capable of only two expressions; menacing inquisition, and unrestrained joviality. He wore the first when he came out into the small crowd that congregated around the gate, and changed into the second, the second he saw Richard.

This is going to be pure pleasure, compared to the recent guests, thought Richard, as the hulking mass of Nuno approached, arms open wide and smile even broader.

“You can’t believe it, can you ? I’m here, I’m here !”

But as soon as there was contact, Richard suspected that the bonhomie was induced not just by visiting Berlin in winter. The smell of alcohol was overpowering and Nuno made no effort to hide the fact, immediately producing a half bottle of Johnnie Walker Red from his coat pocket and offering it to Richard. It was, of course, accepted.

Richard repeated the journey that Chris had taken him on; bus, U-Bahn, S-Bahn, back to U-Bahn. Nuno leaned against the cheap wood panelling of the train, staggering, trying to keep balance with the jolting, and defying anyone to challenge him, looking as if he were here to take Berlin by the scruff of its scruffy, unwashed neck and shake some sense into it.

There was an attempt at commentary on Richard’s side, telling the newcomer a little about this singular, schizophrenic city, but it obviously wasn’t sinking in, and the best thing would be to get home and get coffee.

There were the usual explanations starting from the U-Bahn at the Rathaus, how things worked, what to expect.

And then Nuno was in the flat, dominating the living room, throwing the bag down, and offering the last dregs of whisky to Richard. He looked around, pointed to the Ofen, then laughed, as he recalled being told about collecting wood at two in the morning, and burning it inside the house.

After coffee, they decided to eat, and went to a restaurant near the U-Bahn, that looked half-way decent for this part of Berlin. Richard knew he had made a wise choice when the waitress appeared, with her chestnut hair, great figure and cover-girl looks. He also realised that Nuno had some natural magnetism that drew women, and the waitress found every excuse to keep returning to their table. It was the best service Richard ever experienced in Berlin.

So, in keeping with the surroundings, and to impress the waitress, who introduced herself as Anna, they ordered Camparis and Soda, then, to show that they were red-blooded males, ordered the Grill Platter for two, a respectable homage to a medieval banquet, a huge, silver tray overloaded with various meat selections and garnished with roast potatoes and carrots and an overdose of parsley.

Nuno was in the house and the poor platter stood no chance.

Anna, who was happy to increase Richard’s German vocabulary by making him repeat the word for ashtray, glass, cutlery and so on, asked them what their plans were, were they going out dancing ? Richard mentioned a Jazz club in Prenzlauer Berg he wanted to check out and it wasn’t until he was in the club, some hours later, that he began to consider that she may have been asking to come along. Ordinarily, he was sure Nuno would have caught such an overture, but was numbed by the whisky. Damn that Johnnie Walker. Have to go back, some time, and make amends.

The Jazz club was a disappointment. It was situated, like so much in Berlin, not on the street, but in an unlit back yard, with no discernible means of ingress or egress. Thankfully, a light flashed on the first floor, and some people came down an iron staircase, so they knew where to go.

After paying a relatively high cover charge, they got a table and two beers. The band, instead of being a wild, hot bebop combo, as Richard had automatically presumed, were a group of young white boys with electric bass, drums, keyboard and acoustic guitar. And singer, a short-haired, very camp man, who scatted his way through the American songbook, screeching into unnecessary high notes at the drop of a high-hat.

The idea was to stay for an hour or so, then head over to Schöneberg where Chris was working, and go out from there. Then it seemed that all the drinking suddenly and violently caught up with Nuno. The head sagged, the body lost its muscular form and the eyes were off into infinity. Time to leave.

Outside, Richard thought of getting a Strassebahn, but then became aware that he had under-estimated the size of his problem, for Nuno could barely stand. He held onto Nuno, one hand on his elbow, the other around and supporting him, but if he fell, they would both be going down. Hard.

Richard hailed a taxi, then tried to force Nuno into it, who, by this time, had developed an attack of hiccups and appeared to be about to vomit. The driver was naturally concerned and was going to drive off until he understood that Richard was also coming.

Half supporting, half carrying Nuno, Richard got him back into the flat and into the main room. He left him to undress and went to make coffee. In the kitchen he heard an almighty thump and ran back to find Nuno, fallen onto the floor, just missing the edge of the table/pallet by inches. Attempts to wake him were futile, but he couldn’t be left where he was. Richard took a deep breathe and got him up, moved him to the sofa and let him fall gently onto it. From there, he was able to lift his legs and swing them over, without much effort. He made some tiny adjustments, to make sure Nuno was on safely, then covered him with blankets, took off his shoes and went back to drink his coffee.

It had been quite a night and, as he wasn’t expecting Chris to return, he too turned in, wearing an extra jumper as the Ofen had long gone out and the room was quite literally freezing.

Richard was trying to summon the courage to get out of his bag in the morning, when Nuno got up and lit a Malboro cigarette, which made Richard feel slightly sick. He got up and went to make coffee and to sit around the cooker’s gas ring, until he could face the daunting task of washing in a tiny sink in a chilling room.

After several coffees and as best a wash as possible, he waited for Nuno. He had seen many drunks before, had been out of control himself, far too many times for comfort, but there was something about last night that disturbed him. The answer came soon enough. Raphaela, Nuno’s girlfriend of the past four years, had just left him and had returned to Portugal.

Nuno couldn’t apologise enough, although he had no idea what he had done. He only vaguely recollected the restaurant, but couldn’t place the waitress, appearing hurt when he heard how attractive she was, and the face he pulled when he heard he had been to a Jazz club just made Richard burst out laughing. Then Richard told him about falling and nearly cracking his head.


“How did you lift me ?”

Richard was blank, as the enormity of his task sank in.

“I don’t know,” was the best he could offer.

Once again, Chris came home in the afternoon, immaculate, and had a big embrace with Nuno, saying that he had waited so long at his bar for them, that in the end it had been easier to stay with Ute, a clear fabrication, but one that Richard let go. To make up for last night, Nuno accepted the offer to go to work with Chris, as Ute would be there as well, and Richard wanted to go to the cinema anyway.

They went to Alex and showed Nuno some of the sights in the immediate vicinity, before going into a bar for cognac and coffee then separating, Chris and Nuno taking the S-Bahn to Friedrich Strasse, Richard to walk to the Zeughaus [the German History Museum], which had a small cinema attached and currently showing a retrospective of early Antonioni films.

When the movie ended, Richard slowly made his way home, needing an early night and enjoying some peace and an alcohol-free evening with Proust.

Nuno made sure that Chris’s evening wouldn’t be so passive.

It had begun innocently enough, as Nuno took the nearest bar stool to the kitchen, tucked away down a small corridor, but clearly audible in the quiet bar. Ute made him feel very welcome, asking him about London and his impression of Berlin. Chris had to work, and Nuno indicated that it was no problem for him to stay in a bar drinking for five hours. It just became a problem for everybody else.

Typically, the night was busy, some regular crowds turning up and ordering food at the same time, throwing the east German chef into a near paroxysm of frustration and anger and disbelief. When Chris managed to slip away for a cigarette break, he found Nuno altered, non-communicative, distant.

It wasn’t until just before midnight that Chris could finish and join his girlfriend and friend at the bar and by this time, Ute had had enough of him. Chris found him demanding more beer, then, after the barman half filled the glass, to allow the head to settle for a few minutes, Nuno screamed out,

“Hey, where’s my fucking beer ?”


“Nuno, Nuno, hey, it’s OK, they always pour it like that.”

“I don’t care, I want my beer and I want it now!”

Chris saw Walter speaking angrily to Florian, the barman, who soon came over and spoke to Chris,

“Chris, I’m sorry, but Walter says that your friend has to go. Now.”

Chris felt a cold wave of panic, not knowing how he was going to accomplish that, when, as usual, Marina solved the problem. Temporarily, at least.

She had heard that Nuno was expected and came in to check Ross, inevitably, with her. Marina suggested they all go to another bar.

Outside, Ute declined to come along, saying that Chris should spend time with his friend, then, after Chris failed to take the hint, bluntly told him that she didn’t ever want to see Nuno again and got into her car and drove home.

Nuno, meanwhile, was all over Marina, harmlessly laughing and making in-jokes that didn’t amuse Ross at all.

The four walked to an Irish bar a street or two away and ordered four Guinesses. Inside, Ross called out to an extremely tall Irishman, and beckoned him over.

“This is Brian. He’s the best person I’ve met in Berlin. He’s brilliant.”

Brian stood there, beaming. Chris asked what he did, but totally misheard Ross’s answer above the loud music and pub din, hearing that Brian collected children. This did sound brilliant, commendable, as Chris had visions of the gentle giant going to remote villages with medical supplies, vaccinating the young and saving lives, or placing east European orphans with loving families in the west. But Ross was pointing to the wall behind him, which was covered in Americana, especially car license plates from different states. The penny finally dropped.

“Oh, you collect car-tags ?”

“Yes,” was the brilliant reply. Then Marina let out one of her trademark laughs. She was having a real calming effect on Nuno, who had settled down and seemed to be enjoying himself. He said one or two comments and again, the same reaction, louder, from Marina. Some people, probably known to them, looked over, knowing that sound so well, but Ross wasn’t impressed and reprimanded her,

Mari- naaaa!” with a stern look. Nuno immediately turned on him,

“Hey, what the fuck is that ? Why do you speak to her like that ? You have no idea how to treat this beautiful woman. “

“Well, Nuno, I think you should stop drinking and mind your own business.”

General mayhem, as Marina tried to calm everyone down, Nuno shouted, Ross shouted back, Brian just made noises and Chris restrained the urge to smile. Suddenly Nuno got up and grabbed Ross, pulling him to his feet and raised a fist, when several men around the bar intervened and shuffled him to the door, quite gently in the circumstances, pushing him out, and telling him that he was welcome back tomorrow, but that he’d better sleep it off tonight.

Ross took out his anger at Marina, saying what lovely friends she had, obviously including Chris in his comment, and went to a corner with Brian, with various locals coming up and patting his shoulder, saying that the other fellow was lucky and that Ross would have pummelled him.

Marina made a helpless gesture and Chris was left to get Nuno home, cursing Richard for not being there, and selfishly going to the cinema, instead.

However, the explosion of testosterone and adrenaline had a sobering effect on Nuno, and the long journey home by night buses was pretty painless. Nuno began explaining about Raphaela.

Having told them both about his situation, Nuno slowed his drinking and became great company for Richard as Chris was either at work, or with Ute. The next night, Richard took him to an English-language film at the large Odeon cinema at Schöneberg. Afterwards, they found a bar and sat talking.

They laughed about the primitiveness of the flat, and the cold unrelenting weather. They began speaking of the USA. Why on earth had they come to Berlin ? Why hadn’t they gone to Florida, or California. They began talking about travelling together, Nuno expressing an interest in seeing Chicago, a city he had always been drawn to.

Another man began looking over, and Richard seemed to recognise him.

“Excuse me, I heard you mention Chicago. Are you American ?”

“No, I’m English, but, more to the point, do you have a shower in your apartment ?”

It had become something of a joke, to ask strangers about their bathroom situation. Klaus, the guy at the bar, recognised Richard from Bar Biberkopf [where Chris worked] and went on to explain about the flats in the east, and how there must have been a communal wash-room. He also told them about The Wall, how it made West Berlin an island surrounding by the DDR and how difficult it could be for West Germans to enter the east, having to use special papers and enter at certain border points.

After this bar, Nuno and Richard found another, just before the S-Bahn entrance, an old-style Berlin bar run by an old Turkish man and his young assistant, who was much more interested in chatting to the two ladies who were the bar’s only other customers. Before long, Nuno also got speaking to them, and flirting, while Richard sat and had a quiet whisky, glad to see Nuno happier.

Then they got back to Friedrichshain and went to Café Kinski, where Chris had arranged to meet them. After a quick beer, Chris decided that because Philipp was working, they should try their luck at the Czar Bar, so they walked down Rigaerstrasse, past the first squat bars, to a residential section, then onto a more fitting section of squatted buildings. Chris entered a door that, naturally, showed no sign of life. Inside was something of a shock, even to Richard.

The Czar Bar was a large open space, whitewashed, but had grey stone and concrete showing through. And no heating. To the left of the door was a makeshift bar. Behind the bar was a large dresser, used to store glasses and the bottles of vodka or tequila. Under the counter were crates of beer, evident when the barman bent down out of sight and re-emerged with three bottles for Chris. The barman was covered with a bushy beard and battered 1940’s-style hat, drawn over his eyes.

But what gave the bar it lost-souls atmosphere were the drinkers. It was as if every other squat bar had spewed out their dregs and forced them to come here. There were some repellent punks, some unattractive girls with painful-looking piercings, and people who looked as if they had simply just given up.

Everyone seemed to be drinking alone, there was no background noise, just some old Tom Waits songs coming from a cheap cassette player.


One man, dressed in old, dark trousers and a cheap jacket over a moth-eaten jumper, was perched on a precarious bar stool, the kind of chair that Shoulder may well have made. It was very tall and thin, incredibly top-heavy with a solid metal back but only a small, circular base. The man began swaying, the chair began lifting off the ground. Eventually, he toppled over and crashed onto the concrete floor, and lay there, unmoving. Nobody went to help him, nobody even seemed to acknowledge him. Richard asked Nuno if they should lift him.

“No, I’m not touching that !”

Nuno, in fact, was very unimpressed by the bar and wanted to leave. On the way home, he turned to Richard;

“Would you fuck any of those women in there ?”

Then Chris surprised them both. He informed them that he wasn’t staying in the flat, but would gather a few items of clothing and stay with Ute.

Over coffee, Nuno was upset.

“What the fuck is this ? He invites me over and then doesn’t see me ! Yes, I know I was bad, but … What is wrong with him ?” Then he began speaking about Raphaela. “We used to live together, eat together, sleep together, shit together … not really shit together, you know … ? “

They decided that they should spend the next day sightseeing, as Nuno was keen to see Checkpoint Charlie which he merely referred to as ‘Charlie’. Being so cold, every day seeming to drop more and more degrees, they decided to go to the gallery by Museum Island. It should at least be heated.

After spending the afternoon there, they were deciding what to do next, when a young women with long hair and designer glasses came up to them. She pointed to Richard’s guide, surprised that there could be a whole book on Berlin, as she had one that covered the whole of Europe that, she insisted, wasn’t much bigger.

All three agreed to take a coffee and Nancy told her story, about planning to come to Europe over Summer with her boyfriend, but he had changed his mind, and made excuses why they should go later, something about cheaper flights and less tourists, which did make sense. However, the boyfriend’s real motive was to stay and keep seeing another girl. Nancy only found out three weeks ago, so she took his car, sold it and bought the airline ticket with the money.

She had landed in London, then toured Europe by train and stayed in the cheapest possible accommodation. She was currently in a six-bed dorm in Kreutzberg, which alarmed the two men, but seemed totally natural to her.

Tomorrow she would leave for Paris. Nuno lit up. He had always wanted to go there. He began asking her about costs, where she would stay, how much she expected to spend. Did she mind him coming along, too ? Of course not, and there was a telling exchange in the eyes.

Nuno then asked the key question;

“Does your dorm have a shower ?”

It did, and a spare bed or two as at least one occupant was checking out.

With unbelievable speed, Nuno & Richard were in the dorm, Nuno checking in and insisting that Richard take first shower. As he was drying himself, he heard a wall-shaking, Nuno laugh.

“Hey, Richard, listen to this …. She’s from Chicago !”

All three went for a final drink. Nuno hugged Richard, thanking him for everything. They exchanged addresses, then Richard went back to Friedrichshain alone.

Three months later, in London, he got a postcard, ’Greetings From Chicago’.

He never heard from Nuno again.

Love and Chaos Part 1(M) Steffi 1

20th November 2020

Image by Harald Ansorge from the music video ‘dwot’. Watch, like and subscribe on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxJBbyKLlp0

Part One. Berlin. September 1993

It became very clear, as the evening wore on, that Steffi was here to do Chris, and if Richard happened to be in the same room, so be it. As he later summarised, he could have been sitting there, stark-bollock naked and she still wouldn’t have acknowledged him. Her position, it may be discerned, was that of a woman on a mission, part of which may well have involved the missionary position.

Steffi, who also worked at the studio and was reasonably new to Berlin, followed Chris, and introductions were made. She threw herself into the room, entirely at home, and sat on the floor, removing her light denim jacket and revealing a charming, loose blouse that in turn revealed more than was decent. She shouted out, in her whiney, Australian accent,

“Got anything to drink ?”

Chris returned with a bottle of cheap vodka drink, a 20% blend of the spirit with blackcurrant, and three glasses. He poured, passed them around and they clinked. In a flash, Steffi had downed her drink. The two men looked at each other.

“Hey, steady on, it’s still early.”

“Ah, you Poms, all wimps, c’mon, drink up.”

They did, and poured the second round. A Repetition. Steffi was quite small, but hardly delicate, she filled out her jeans to straining point and sometimes her top rose up, showing a series of stomachs that appeared to have sampled the delights of German cuisine. Chris spoke up, wanting to leave a bit of time between the second and imminent third round.

“You hair looks good, now.”

He was referring to her dye-job. Her hair, hanging limply past her shoulders, was a deep-purple, mauve, brown concoction. When Richard looked closely, he was sure that her forehead, as it met the hairline, was also purple-mauve. Chris later confirmed this. He had seen her the morning after her unaided attempt, and she had, indeed, managed to dye most of her forehead, neck and ears.

“Yeah, thanks. Seen any more good films ? Chris took me to a French film. It was great. Real intellectual stuff. Where’s the drinks ? What’s wrong with you ?”

“Just need more ice.”

Chris excused himself and went into the kitchen, clearly meaning Richard to follow. The hint was taken and the two conversed by the fridge. Chris spoke,

“What are we going to do ?” He indicated the bottle that was rapidly emptying.

“I don’t know, but I can’t keep up with her. I’ll be dead.”

“Me too !”

“You went out with her ?”

“No ! Well, yes, yes, we went … out, but I didn’t go … out with her.”

“Does she know that ?”

“Yes, when we were in bed, I told her … “

“You went to bed with her ?”

“No ! Well, yes, yes, I went to bed, no, we were in the same bed together, but I made it clear, the Berlin Wall exists down the centre.”

“Looks like that Wall’s also fallen.”

“What are you two up to ? I’m dying of thirst out here. Where’s my drink ?”

Chris whispered,

“She’s from the Outback where it’s bold and brash … just like her.”

“Yeah, you couldn’t have left her out back ?”

“Alcohol !”

The third round was duly poured and consumed. Richard felt that he had to recuse himself, citing his flight the following day.

“Oh, you’re leaving tomorrow. Good.”

Then something happened. At first, Steffi became very quiet. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, opposite the men who were on the coach. They were having a little private conversation and listening to the radio playing some request show. Slowly, Steffi began tilting to her right, then toppled right over, and, adopting the foetal position, fell asleep on the floor. Snoring followed.

The men let out a relieved laugh, and went into the kitchen to slowly finish the bottle before turning to the beers, drinking away, very respectfully, by candle-light, with the faint background of 50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll hits. Over an hour passed, pleasantly enough, and it was decided that Richard would come back, as soon as he’d saved enough. They did basic costings and realised that the biggest expense would be the airfare. He could stay rent-free, just help out on food and the beer money. Richard predicted that he could make it back in early November, but that they should look into the possibility of his moving here, as well. Chris would ask about a job at the studio …

Then it happened.

The first rumblings were ominous enough, so much so, that they rose from the kitchen and caught the whole performance live.

On the floor, a little way in front of the sofa, was a pallet, the kind used in factories to transport goods. It served as a table, of sorts, maybe in the Japanese style, with imagination, or maybe Shoulder could have viewed it as a perfect accompaniment to his conceptual chair, ‘a table ? What do you want a table for ?’


Chris had put various everyday items on it, and Richard had taken one side for his passport and airline ticket. In the very centre of the pallet was a large blue-painted metal bucket, to be used for carrying coal, or briquettes from the cellar to put in the Ofen. Chris had used this for collecting all his small coins, bronze Pfennings and silver Marks.

Steffi had begun to make sounds of demonic intensity, a bastard hybrid of belch and hiccup, as she raised herself, resting on her knees and knuckles. In this dignified position, she crawled over to the bucket, put her head in and emptied her stomach.

“This is so far outside my frame of experience,” said Richard.

“I had a lot of money in that bucket. Let’s have a beer.”

It was another hour before Steffi emerged, and they could hear her cleaning up in the toilet. She came into the kitchen, with a lack of self-consciousness that they could only applaud, and asked for a beer.

“I don’t think that’s the best thing for you. Have some water.”

Steffi clearly liked being looked after by Chris and allowed herself to be taken back inside, where they sat and passed the evening, Steffi drinking tea while the men finished off the beers. They decided to stay in and anyway, Jens was working the bar tonight, or ‘Geschlossen’ as they called him due to the fact that the once or twice they had gone there around One in the morning, the bleached-blonde barman had barked out, “Geschlossen !” or ‘closed’ at them, despite the bar being half full and other people seemingly having no difficulty in procuring drinks.

One small incident occurred as they were getting ready to sleep. It was decided, by Chris, that he would take the floor and leave the other two on the couch. While Richard was next to Steffi with very little breathing space, she called out to Chris to join them, as there was plenty of room. Chris declined and gave a very poor impression of a man already asleep and not to be disturbed.

The packing took no time at all, and all three went out for a breakfast in a normal-looking, locals bar. They ordered refills of coffee as they started on the plates of meat and cheese and rolls. It seemed as if Steffi was also going to come to the airport, but, to the delight of the men, she changed her mind and decided to go home instead. She asked Chris what he was doing that evening. He made up a story about helping a friend in Steglitz, a Bezirk in the South West of the city.

They travelled with her as far as Alex, where she changed for the line to Kreutzberg, and they for the S-Bahn.

The journey was slightly melancholic, but they only had to think of the previous night to raise a smile. Anyway, Richard would work and save to fly back. Chris parted from him at the airport gate with a:

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bucket of vomit to deal with.”

He waved and walked away. Richard kept his word, he worked and booked his ticket for early November. Only six weeks had passed since he left, but when he returned, the whole situation was different and he next left, not planning an immediate return, but convinced that he would never come back ever again.

Love and Chaos Part 1(K) Chris 4

18th November 2020

LLOYD'S BEWARE THE BLOG: KLAUS KINSKI: Krimi's, Cowboys, Vampires and Mad  Men in German Cinema
German actor Klaus Kinski (Google Images)

Part One. Berlin. September 1993

Chris couldn’t wait to take Richard to his local bar, Cafe Kinski, and to show him how he was already a part of this underground community. They left the house and walked for two or three minutes until Chris stopped Richard outside what appeared to be a closed store front. Chris pointed up. Perched on the top corner of the first floor, looking down on them, was a metal sculpture of a man wearing a hat, fingers pointing outwards. Although the creation was obviously comprised of scrap metal and junk, the figure seemed not only animated, but actually smiling.

“That’s from Shoulder. Maybe he’ll be in, later.”

“Ah, that would be nice.”

Cafe Kinski was one of the more up-market squat bars, especially by Rigaer Strasse standards. There were two sections, a deep room that ended up at the bar, and the main room which had a pool table. There were round tables throughout, with various, non-matching chairs. All tables had candles in bottles, heavy ashtrays and multiple stains and chips. Hanging from the ceiling was a video beamer and another beamer projected an image of the actor Klaus Kinski onto a wall near the bar. Chris was right, it was nothing like an English pub, more like a student bar at university, an observation Richard made shortly after entering.

“Only without the self-righteousness and high bullshit factor,” replied Chris.

The building was all squatted. On the ground floor was the bar, which occupied a former shop space and next to it, another closed shop that was boarded up and awaiting repair. There were four floors of houses above, all occupied, all squated. Three or four of the squatters ran the bar. The system was that whoever was working went to the stores in the afternoon to buy beer in crates, spirits and whatever else they thought would sell. Then they would clean the bar, rarely more than a token sweep and clearing away of ashtrays and bottles, a pretence of cleaning the toilets, and then open around ten o’clock. They closed when the last customer left, or simply when they felt like it.

Chris led Richard straight to the bar and opened his arms, smiling at the barman, who was equally enthusiastic.


“Hi, Silvio, wie gehts (‘how are you ?’). This is my friend Richard, from London.”

“Ah, Ja, hello. Welcome to Berlin. Beer ?”

“Ja,” answered Chris, “naturlische.”

Silvio was slighter taller than them, with short frizzy hair tucked under a John Lennon cap, leather jacket over a T-shirt with German text and old dark jeans, dusty and worn. He also had a permanent smile.

They spoke about Richard’s first impressions of Berlin and had a shot of Jim Beam. Richard got his money out, totally happy to pay so little for so much.

“No,” said Silvio, firmly, hand out, “first we drink, then you pay.”

Around eleven, the bar began getting busier, the music became louder and Chris suggested they move away from the high bar stools to a nearby table.

“Look at this … eleven-fifteen and people are only just starting to go out drinking.”

“What a life, and I’m being serious. I could get to like it.”

“What have you got back home ? Really ? Shit job, high rent, eleven o’clock closing. When you can afford to drink in pubs, which is never.”

“Can’t argue with that. I decided to postpone college for another year. With you out of the way, I may actually have a chance to save up some cash. Which, of course, I’ll blow by coming over here. Do you realise, that if we drink enough, I’ll actually save money by coming to Berlin, rather than going out drinking in London ?”

“Let’s put it to the test. More beers.”

After Chris had returned with fresh beers, pausing for a little chat with a large man with long hair sitting at the bar, Richard thought it best to get some answers before the night got much older.

“What was the emergency, then ?”

“Oh, that, yeah, really scared the crap out of me.” Chris went into detail about his first week, staying with Marina, then Claudia, before getting this flat. “What hadn’t been explained to me was that in addition to the month’s rent, I had to throw her a bung. Rents are so cheap in Berlin, but there aren’t that many empty flats, so it’s a seller’s market. If you have a flat to rent, you see who’s got the most cash, and rent it to them, for a one-off payment. Totally illegal, totally universal. But the landlady …”

“Mrs … Holtzengraff ?”

“Right, she knew Marina, somehow, and has a shop near Claudia, so they worked out a deal. Only thing was, they didn’t tell me.”

“Useful.”

“Maybe they did, but there was so much to take in, it must have slipped my mind. Until a week later. I’m all alone, got a bit of a hang-over, night before, I’d met Shoulder actually, anyway, thump on the door, and before I can answer, she’s barged in, with her minder, a reel beefy bastard, and she’s screaming at me in German. Now, I understand nothing and I’m there in my boxer shorts and grungy T-shirt, kind of vulnerable, hoping my old John Thomas doesn’t slip out, and I’m just saying that I’ll check with Marina or Claudia.”

“So what happened ?”

“She knew she was getting nowhere, and I’m waving my rent slip at her, and I’m getting nowhere, so she leaves, slams the door and I can hear her all down the stairs. She called me an English cunt.”

“Really ?”

“I don’t know. I’d lay money on it, though. Anyway, I go to work … “

“Yeah, what do you do exactly ?”

“Paint cartoons, but I’ll just finish this story, then we can move on to Claudia the Cat, who I see later that day. I tell her and what’s happened and then she explains that Fr Holzkopf, that’s Wood-head, wanted her five hundred Marks. Which I didn’t have.”

“But then it all worked out … ?”

“Thanks to Marina. She’s taken care of everything. She told Queen Bitch that I’ve just moved here, and so I could pay an extra Hundred Marks a months for five months. Here’s to Marina. Let’s go have another drink with Silvio. Silvio ! Jim Beams, three …”

They were the last to leave, making Silvio more intoxicated that he would have preferred to be in the process. As the night had been fairly quiet, they had moved back to the stools in front of the bar and made Silvio join in with their every round. Most people greeted Chris and he introduced them all to Richard, including the large man to whom he had spoken earlier. He was Russian, and his main feature was a prominent gap in between his front teeth, to which Chris drew Richard’s attention.

“Look at that ! Isn’t it magnificent. ‘Mind the gap!’ ” The chap, henceforth known as ‘Gaptooth’ smiled good naturedly, and displayed his dental disposition on demand.

The next thing Richard knew, he was on the floor of the flat, in a burrowed sleeping bag, with a vague recollection of staggering home, singing ‘Fall On Me’ by R.E.M., the two of them somehow managing the three-part harmonies. He looked up, saw Chris totally crashed on the couch, and decided to try to go back to sleep.

Some hours later, he woke again, to the sound of Chris lighting the first cigarette of the day. Richard sat up and they said their ‘Good mornings’, Chris throwing the packet of West over to him.

“Oh, not sure I can, not first thing. Pretty rough, these.”

“Yeah, real eastern. Pure propaganda. Call it ‘West’ and make it gross, thus associating all things western with nausea and death. Very subtle. How do you feel ?”

“Not too bad. I’ll be better after a sh …”

“You going to say ‘shower’ or ‘shit’ ? “

“Either. But … so what do you do for … ?”

“Ablutions ? As best I can. Oh, one more thing … no hot water in the kitchen.”

“So we boil pots ?”

“Yes. If I had any. I’ve got a kind of large mug come small saucepan and the kettle. You’ve seen the toilet ?”

“Yeah, I meant to ask about that … what’s the situation. I mean … it’s kind of … a ledge ?”

“The plateau. Don’t mention that in the tourist brochures. It’s for examination of … you know.”

“No, I really don’t.”

“Haha. You will.”

Chris had to go to work later that day to pick up some wages and give in his proposed schedule for the next days, so Richard went with him, catching the Strassebahn from Bersarinplatz up to where it terminated, all along Danziger Strasse and past the main intersection with Prenzlauer Berg’s Schonhauser Allee. From there, it was a short walk along a deserted and empty Bernauer Strasse, turning off into some side streets to get to the studio.

They walked to the staff room, where Chris made two coffees and said hello to two or three people. Everyone was very casual and relaxed, dressed unlike anything Richard imagined office staff would wear. There was a mixture of accents, but all conversations were in English. Suddenly, Chris’s face lit up.

A girl of medium height in a loose fitting top and tight jeans shuffled into the room.

“Claudia ! Hey !”

“Oh, hello. I thought you were having a friend over ?”

“I am … he’s over there. Richard, this is Claudia.”

She barely glanced over then went back to Chris, making some small talk and in-jokes about work.

“You know Simon, don’t you ?” She pointed to a tall, well-built young man sitting opposite, who had been speaking with a slight upper-class accent to some of the other staff. He looked up, raised a hand and carried on talking. Richard picked up on the relationship between Claudia and Chris; Chris would try to make jokes, make her laugh, and she would talk down to him, like a slightly simple sibling. He chose to keep this realisation to himself.

After Chris had collected his money and wrote out his schedule, they left and walked to the nearest U Bahn and from there to Alex, where they again walked around, drank a bit, then drank a bit more.

The evening was spent in Cafe Kinski, with Philipp working. This time, the atmosphere was different, Philipp being quiet and withdrawn almost to the point of autism, choosing not to make eye contact or any banter with most customers, just filling the drink orders and barking out the price.

It was a busier night, louder music, as Philipp was very fond of Rage Against The Machine, played loudly. A heated pool game was also in progress.

Once again, they were among the last to leave, but as Philipp tended to close early, they regrettably found themselves vaguely sober, and so decided to walk around.

The post-beer hunger kicked in so, after they crossed Karl Marx Allee, Chris showed Richard a small Imbiss that was opened most of the night, and sold turkish pizza and pizza slices for a Mark or two. The radio was always on, playing what may well have been the exact same song on a permanent maddening loop, a high tempo, Turkish-disco-sounding instrumental. Chris began moving to it, with a rather peculiar belly dance thrown in. The staff just ignored him and carried on turning over the kebab meat and spooning oil over the salads, a vain attempt to make them look freshish.

On the way home, eating turkish pizzas, which were circles of dough, covered in spices and herbs, rolled up and wrapped in foil so as to be eaten by hand, Richard observed,

“You dance like that in London, you’d get you face smashed in.”

“I danced like that in London, I’d deserve to have my face smashed in. But no complaints here, hey, and what have they got to complain about ? Didn’t see them wearing a hair net. As for their fingers, no telling where they’re been. Nowhere near soap, that’s for sure.”

As they got back to Rigaer Strasse, they heard music coming from the squat bar on the opposite corner to the flat. They decided to go in.

The bar had no given name, and was just known by the address, Rigaer 13. It was reached by a side door, and then down a short flight of steps. This bar was simply a square, plain room with an improvised bar area, frequented mainly by punks. Chris vaguely knew the barman and ordered two beers.

They got a table and smoked, several times being asked for cigarettes by other patrons. After another beer, they decided that it was time to leave, Chris working the next afternoon.

Both of them had been a little concerned over the visit, for while they had worked together and socialised, they had never shared a room for longer than a night, and the limited amenities could have strained things further. However, with Chris’ enthusiasm for Berlin and his interest in showing it to Richard, and Richard’s easy-going nature and willingness to be impressed, the time passed quickly and without problem.

The only entertainment in the flat was an old radio-cassette. which was either tuned to American Forces Network or the BBC World Service, along with a small collection of tapes, some of which Chris had brought with him: Dylan’s ‘Self Portrait’ and ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’ by Nanci Griffith being the most played.

The lack of central heating wasn’t such an issue until the last days of the visit, when the temperature seemed to drop overnight.

The washing took some time, but even that was cause for laughter, not complaint. Richard tended to wash in the afternoons, when Chris would be at work, and it could take up to an hour, boiling the kettle enough times, blending it with the right amount of cold water, especially when washing the hair and not wanting to either burn or freeze the head. This was, of course, done by candlelight as the kitchen had no lighting of any sort and the toilet sink was too little to be of any practical purpose.

On Richard’s penultimate day, they went for brunch at Marina’s. Richard was enamoured by Mainar, who corresponded not in the least with his mental image, picturing her as possessing long, blonde hair, possibly braided. At the same time, he was repulsed by Ross, who didn’t seem to want them there, and kept asking what time they planned on leaving.

Mercifully, Ross had to go to work, and the atmosphere lightened considerably, with Chris singing along to all the songs that Marina now had chance to play.

They left late afternoon, as Marina had to get ready. She’d gotten a job at a bar-restaurant again, knowing the owner through some convoluted connection.

Back in Friedrichshain, they went to a local Spar store, bought some food and beer. Richard felt a little embarrassed as the drove a trolley loaded with victuals and bottles, while everyone else had hand-baskets containing three or four sad items. Richard passed one shelf, which had bunches of root vegetables wrapped together by elastic bands, all of them looking wrinkled and tired and pitiful.

That night was spent, naturally, in Cafe Kinski, where Richard told Silvio he’d be back soon. He had an idea of Berlin, saw how Chris lived and planned to return.

He had travelled around on his own, while Chris worked, and knew the U-Bahn system, could buy a cheap snack at an Imbiss and had picked up a few words of German.

There were two other people he met on his last two nights; a sculptor called Shoulder and a monster called Steffi.