Love and Chaos. Part Nine (F) Richard 1

14th August 2021

Berlin Christmas Markets Walking Tour
Berlin at Christmas. Google Images

Part Nine. Berlin. December 1995

Chris spent Friday evening at Rodenberg Strasse, abstaining from alcohol, and reading until Richard returned from Steglitz, after which they shared a couple of easy beers. The music was constant but soft, limited to Richard’s few CDs. The next morning, Chris was flying back to London and Richard had all day to fret about his date with Johanna.

In the morning, dark and bitter, Richard, light and optimistic, walked with Chris up Schönhauser Allee to the Strassenbahn (tram) stop on Wisbyerstrasse, slushing through the snow, head down, shoulders hunched up. Chris tried moving from foot to foot to keep warm, but almost slipped on the treacherous ice. Before too long, the faint smoky glow of an approaching tram, doors opening with an hangover-splitting shriek but the inviting warmth of a heated vehicle.

Richard was travelling as far as Osloer Strasse the northern terminus of the U 9 Line. From there, Chris had a mere two stops to the interchange with the U 6, then four more to get the airport bus.

“So, tea, naturally, now, drinks … what do you have in mind ?”

“How about some Pimms ?”

“Didn’t know you liked Pimms.”

“Don’t know if I do. Never tried it. Just sounds so English. Ah, forget it. Everything’s cheaper here. Suppose Stilton’s out of the question.”

“I’m not bringing sodding Stilton back in my bag, I’ll get arrested. Books ?”

Richard named some Physics text books.

“Man, those things weigh a ton. All right, let me see. Oh, here we are. Sure you don’t wanna come to the airport, it’ll be fun.”

Richard said goodbye to Chris and watched him descend into the U-Bahn station. Just then, a Strassenbahn appeared, heading back east, and he jumped on, buying some croissants on the way back to his flat. As the coffee was brewing, there was a knock on the door, heavy, forceful, determined.

So Chris had missed the flight, or gotten the date wrong, or forgotten his passport. He pulled his door open, prepared to shout mock obscenities and bemoan the lack of Pimms when he was momentarily silenced. Completely blank for a second or two, and then a warm but confused,

“Silke !”

Standing outside his door, in tight black jeans, a very figure-hugging jacket, and boots that were far too sensual for the ice and muck of Berlin streets, was Silke who, in character, walked straight in and hugged Richard.

“Gehts ? Hey, long time, why don’t you phone, did you forget me ? Was ist ? Coffee ?”

Richard followed her into his own kitchen and, yes, she did look absolutely fantastic in jeans. He allowed himself this unexpected pleasure.

“But, er, Chris isn’t here. He’s just left for the airport.”

“Ja, und ? I speak with you. Oh, croissants, can I have ?”

“For sure. You speak with me. Wow. It’s a Christmas miracle.”

“Ah, mensch, bullshit. So was is with you ? Tell me.”

Naturally, there really wasn’t that much for Richard to tell. Same job, same life, same old Czar Bar. Chris, same job, same life, same old Czar Bar. Except for Johanna, about whom Silke was very curious.

“She lives where ?”

“Is it Marzahn ? Somewhere in the east.”

“Marzahn, schiess ! Have you been there ?”

“No, we always … ‘always’, twice, meet in town. Kreuzberg. In fact, we’re meeting tonight. Third date. Anyway, what’s with you ? Monika said you had a new man.”

“When was this ? You saw Monika ?”

Richard told her about meeting Monika in summer, without elaborating, not that there was any need for restraint. Silke knew everything.

“Ah, so, you know Gabi lives with a lawyer. Is a nice Hausfrau now, never meets. Lorelai went to …”

“I know, Munich.”

“Nein, England. She met a student and now lives in … let me think … Brighton ? Is it nice ?”

“Probably nicer than Marzahn. A student, hey ? What do ya know ?”

“Now we are neighbours.”

“Who ? You’re moving to Brighton. Why’s everyone going to bloody Brighton ?”

“Nein, you and me. I have a new apartment in Greifenhagener Strasse. Just go over Stargarder. By the Cafe Ankhor. You know it ?”

“Yes, remarkably cute waitress who couldn’t care tuppence for me. What else is new ?”

Silke, being unfamiliar with this rhetoric, actually began explaining what was new.

“Aber, ja, Monika, who knows ? I think she is tired. Too many stupid jobs, stupid men. I told her to go back to university. I’m going to. Is there more coffee ?”

An hour or so later, Silke got ready to leave. She made Richard promise to visit her, it was only five minutes away. They hugged and as they did so, they kissed. It was natural. For Richard, it was nice, very, very nice.

Around the same time, Chris was getting ready to board the flight to London. He was pinching himself, remembering to say Lufthansa, not Luftwaffe, and was looking forward to a high of 4 degrees.

Around the same time, in the north Berlin Bezirk of Wedding, Daniel was putting on his coats to call Jeanette. He had his Pfennings and Marks counted out, weighing down his jeans. The telephone that accepted cards was open-air and he would freeze his ears, while the coin-box was in a booth. It would still be freezing but not fatally.

Around the same time, ‘Rough Guide’ clutched in gloved hands, Alan Francis was walking along Danziger Strasse. He would have to move out soon, but Kelly had a room organised for him, across Schönhauser Allee. He saw a cinema over the main road and took it as an auspicious omen. He went to investigate his new neighbourhood.

Around the same time, although on EST, Eric Schwartz threw John Stuart Mill across the room, grabbed a Sam Adams, and planned on, in the morning, hitting a punch bag instead of the books. After Eric had finished Sam Adams Volume II, he felt better and reflected that making people happy, that is, tipsy, was undoubtedly for the greater good. By Volume III, he was wishing that the good people of Boston had tipped John Stuart Mill into the harbour instead of tea and by Volume IV he no longer cared, and was watching whatever was on late night TV.

Back in Berlin, Richard was reflecting on his day. He had seen Chris back to the UK safely. Soberly. He had caught a Strassenbahn immediately. Silke had miraculously reappeared in his life, the lady with Bond-girl legs, and S&M fetish boots, and tonight he was meeting Johanna. The year was ending very well.

Love and Chaos Part 8(A) Alan 1

14th June 2021

Pfefferberg in Berlin | there you can read more: www.pfeffer… | Flickr

Pfefferberg on Schönhauser Allee, Prenzlauer Berg. Google Images

Part Eight

Berlin. August 1995

Life, thought Alan, is incredible. Degree attained, a prestigious job in the City, networking with the movers and shakers, the future investors and producers. A year of being, a year of nothingness. No script, no contacts, no cast of characters, no crew, no shakers, but at least a move.


Now, thought Alan, I am a Putzfrau (cleaning woman), but I have more disposable income. No exorbitant London rents, travel passes, food, the NFT membership, however, had been essential. And I’ve found my cast of characters; I am surrounded by actors and artists. My dreams are no longer abstract plans, but actual possibilities.

Berlin; he loved Berlin. Immediately. Here was a city with real atmosphere, a city to be lived in, to feel alive, every inch a film set

People spoke to you. Neighbours, shop keepers, people on the street. You could go up to anyone in a bar and start talking.

He had been in the city less than a month but was already planning on extending his stay and finding another room, or even his own flat. Such plans were ludicrous in London; a cleaner having his own flat.

Alan was not going to let anything go to waste. Every experience would be stored for reference. Every time he rode the S-Bahn, or an elevated U-Bahn, he took in all the sights, mentally framing them, he took in all the beautiful women in their summer dresses, tilting his inner lens, Dutch angles capturing German angels. He listened to the symphony of this city, he was a man with a movie camera.

Alan tried articulating these thoughts, and many others, writing to his sister. He decided to use the letters as a writing exercises, to make his views lucid. He wasn’t sure if he succeeded.

Dear Sis,

Where to start ? You were right about Berlin – why didn’t I come last year ? All that time wasted, nothing to show for it. Not anymore – I have seen a camera I like (and can afford !) and will buy it tomorrow.

Kelly is so sweet – she’s really looked after me. I’ve met so many new people. You were right about Vincent – girls love him – what a great actor he’ll be (in my films, I mean !) so charismatic.

The room is big and light – not too girly, with a computer and even some books in English (Nasti – the girl whose room I’m subletting, is a geography student and has to study in English, no text-books in German, apparently).

Kelly got me the first job. I’m up at 5:30 and go to an Irish bar near Tacheles, the arts centre, and clean for about 2 hours. The bar owner is a splendid Irish man called Patrick (no, I’m not making this up). He set me up with another bar where I work for the next two hours. I can walk from one bar to the other.

I get home around noon, in time for lunch – coffee, rolls with jam or honey, some fruit, and start planing my films !

I saw Vincent perform – all in German, so I couldn’t understand it – but he held the stage well and kept the audience’s attention, quite an achievement ! Yes – bars here are very different – any space can open, stock up with crates and sell beer. As you would eloquently say, “It’s bonkers !”

Yes – I have been a little tipsy, sometimes – everyone buys me beers, even when I tell them I don’t want one – they think it’s English politeness !!

Have meet lots of girls ! All very nice. Kelly will take me to somewhere nearby – the Pepperberg (????) – something like Pepper Mountain (???)

I hear there are some second hand bookshops around – really need to find them – read my collection over and over. Went to a special English bookshop but it is SO EXPENSIVE !!!! Books at twice the cover price. Located in a horrid area as well, very bleak, drab, overwhelmingly depressing, decades of failed dreams etched in the brickwork.

Could you save my life and send over my ‘Bazin’ ??? I have two slim volumes (not too much postage – OH, and my ‘Godard on Godard’ – how could I have forgotten THAT !!!)

Brilliant idea of yours – maybe you can pop over at some point ? How is the job ? Won’t ask about London because I don’t care !!!

Lots of love

Alan

Next evening, a Friday, Kelly, along with some friends, took Alan from their flat near the Wasserturm and walked to the Pfefferberg.

This was a huge arts complex, whose classical façade dominated the southern stretch of Schönhauser Allee. Paying the entrance at street level, Kelly took Alan up the steps to a wide, open beer garden. People sat on the walls and looked down to the street below, or danced in the centre. Buildings arranged around the courtyard were opened and housed temporary exhibitions of paintings, or were hosting poetry slams.

Alan looked around, so tempted to lift his fingers to his eyes and make a camera shape and pan left to right. What a location, he thought. He couldn’t resist; he made the camera shape and paned left to right.

Through his fingers he spotted Vincent, with some girls, and they came over, Vincent very tall and flamboyant, dwarfing Alan who was under average height.

“So Herr Direktor, did you buy the camera today ?” he asked.

Alan smiled and slowly nodded,

“And projector and three film cartridges.”

“You’re still on your first beer ?” Kelly asked him, concerned that he wasn’t having a good time.

Alan lifted it up and showed that if was over half full. Also, he didn’t smoke, and was starting to believe that he may be the only person in Berlin who didn’t. Then he met another non-smoker who came up and introduced herself.

“They told me I shouldn’t speak to you, because you only talk about cinema. Well, I love cinema too. Hello. My name’s Julie.”

Love and Chaos Part 5(D) Burkhardt 1

2nd April 2021

A typical east-German Trabant. Photo by Martin O’ Shea

Part Five. Berlin. Autumn 1994

Richard awoke and, jolting up, looked around the strange flat, wondering where the hell he was. Then it came back to him, with the audio aid of Chris’ snoring. He looked on the sofa and saw that Chris hadn’t moved for … he looked around, feeling for his watch, but it was too dark to make out the time. The next stage was to search for his wallet. It was in his jeans pocket. He opened it and though depleted, there were still some Deutsche Marks remaining.

Domestic noises from behind the large, double doors; footsteps on creaking floorboards, a tap running, a container lid popping open.

A door slowly opened, and Burkhardt peeked in, raising his hand to Richard’s wave. Richard got up, put on his jeans and went to the bathroom, grateful that he always had a travel toothbrush with him.

He would have preferred waking up next to a beautiful German girl, but that would have to wait.

After brushing, and washing his hands and face, he went into the kitchen, where the coffee was waiting for him. Burkhardt offered him one of his Marlboros.

“Your friend is still sleeping. I hope he is OK. I was going to look at him, to make sure he was breathing, then he began snoring. Was it that loud all night ?”

“Oh, yes. The brandy really helped.”

Burkhardt had to go to his shop, so Richard thanked him for his help, and went to wake up Chris But, again, the irresistible force of Richard’s shaking met the immovable object of Chris’ comatosed slumber, until Burkhardt suggested leaving him to sleep it off.

“Well,” said Richard, “that may take a few hours.”

“Do you want to see my shop ? I have to make office things, but we can play records and drink coffee. Just leave a note, saying we’ll be back later.”

“Good idea, but I’m guessing he’ll still be asleep.”

“Haha. We can see.”


The small shop was on Stargarder Strasse, at the Prenzlauer Allee end, which Chris considered the poor man’s Schönhauser Allee. The two north-south main roads ran almost parallel, tapering into Wilhelm Pieck Strasse at the southern end, were linked by the S-Bahn, and dissected by the dreaded Danziger Str.

It was mid morning, and apart from the occasional bakery and general paper-drink-sweet shop, everything was closed and quiet.

Burkhardt opened up, turned on the lights, and told Richard to feel free to look around. Then he went behind the counter to turn on the sound system.

“We have a CD player, cassette deck and stereo, of course,” he laughed, waving his hand over the carefully arranged racks of vinyl records. “Please, play anything you like and I’ll make some coffee.”

“Can I smoke in here ?”

Burkhardt came back and with an expression indicating what he thought of such a silly question, answering,

“Ja, of course!”

Richard looked around, acquainting himself with the organization of the shop, the different areas for different genres.

Records, tapes, books, magazines and CD’s were everywhere, yet clearly ordered. The walls had various picture discs on them, or posters and magazine covers. Behind the counter were more records, either Burkhardt’s choices or rarer pieces.

Richard moved over to the Jazz selection, a small, but quite comprehensive collection, with most of the giants represented. He picked up a Miles Davis disc, ‘Star People’, turning it over in his hands, then a Dizzy Gillespie compilation, a Mingus LP and was studying a Charlie Parker double set.

Burkhardt came back with two mugs of coffee, a Marlboro firmly grasped in the corner of his mouth.

“Anything you want to hear ?”

“You choose.”

Burkhardt had on black leather trousers, a shirt of bold colourful vertical stripes, leather jacket and thick square glasses. Richard was expecting some hard-core industrial German noise from the early Eighties. Instead, the jaunty, almost twee introduction of The Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice ?’ came on, the thump of a bass drum launching the song into its infectious verses.

“Sixties music is my passion. I try to buy everything I can from that time. It sells OK. I don’t have anything really rare, just some interesting albums from different countries. I wish I had been there. Imagine, living at that time, all this great new music coming out. Not knowing what was going to happen next.”

Richard moved over to the book section and saw that most of them were indeed about Sixties artists.

“Have you read these ? Some of them ?”

“All of them. I’m very boring, I know !”

“No, not at all.”

“But they only tell a part of the story, they only focus on one particular artist, but I think the power of The Sixties was that they were all part of a much larger scene, it was all connected, they all influenced and helped change each other.”

“Like The Beatles hearing Dylan, The Stones hearing The Beatles ?”

“Yes, but much more, much … “ Burkhardt searched for the appropriate word in English, but his gesture and expression were eloquent enough.

“That is what I want to do; write a book on all the music, how it all fitted together. I always read the same things, as you said, Dylan went electric after hearing The Beatles, who began writing longer songs, then The Stones made their concept album. What I want to show is how all of the competition lead to greater and greater music and creativeness.”

He broke off to listen to a particular section of the ‘Pet Sounds’ record that was playing. He continued,


“Let’s take the big three: Dylan, coming from the Folk background, The Beatles from Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Stones from Blues. The Beatles take their influence and give it something of their own. This gives an example to The Stones, to write their own music. The Who follow The Stones, seeing that it was possible to be successful, without looking like Paul McCartney, and that writing original songs was what separated the great bands from all the others. Meanwhile, in America, The Byrds listen to Dylan and Folk, but see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and Roger McQuinn goes to buy a 12-string Rickenbacker and make one of The Sixties most iconic guitar sounds. They cover Dylan, making his name bigger. He already has critical approval, now comes mass success. All the time the music is going back and forth over the Atlantic, The Beatles hear all these great words, and feel embarrassed by their simplistic lyrics, and Dylan loves the power of the beat. He goes electric at a folk festival, the crowd go crazy, half love it, half hate it, hate him for doing it. Meanwhile, we have these boys, The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson writing, playing, producing. He gets into a contest with Lennon-McCartney, who can write the most perfect, sophisticated pop song ? The Beatles, listening to Dylan, listening to The Byrds, mix jangly guitars with deeper lyrics, come out with ‘Rubber Soul’, The Beach Boys hear this, as well as Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and start working on Pet Sounds.

Burkhardt pointed off behind him at the music coming out of the speakers.

“The Beatles hear Pet Sounds and realize the bar has been lifted, not by a small amount, but higher than they thought possible. McCartney calls ‘God Only Knows’ the best song ever written. They have to top it. Meanwhile, Mr Dylan releases ‘Blonde on Blonde’. In August 1966, The Beatles put out ‘Revolver’, what a collection of songs, what a cover. German artist, naturally. Brian Wilson hears this, begins work on an album to be even better. The first result is soon heard: ‘Good Vibrations’. They use a theremin, and create a totally new sound. Now the race is really on. Who is going to win ? The Beatles are working on what will be ‘Sgt. Pepper’ but rumours come over about a project called ‘Smile’, a work so powerful that it will blow the minds of all who hear it. Then The Beatles had ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’. Brain Wilson, for … whatever reasons, put the ‘Smile’ project aside. And it was never released.”

Burkhardt let out a sigh, a requiem for all the great music that never was.

“Some songs crept out, some bootleg recordings of backing tracks and finally a watered down version, to fill the contract. Never more would The Beach Boys be a major band. Their following LP’s sold bad, some not even making the Top 100.

“Music is like an arrow that never falls, but carries on, forever. Bands get to ride along, for a while, then fall away. After ‘Smile’, The Beach Boys fell away.

“Meanwhile, The Beatles won the contest. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ came out in 1967, the ‘Summer of Love’. Of course, I have seem photos, they recorded it in the freezing cold London winter. Then what happened ? No more Brian Wilson, Dylan had disappeared. And they bring out ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, not exactly a flop, but no masterpiece. And The Stones continue to follow The Beatles, and release ‘Their Satanic Majesty Requests’. I’m a Stones fan, but even I have a hard time listening to that. It seemed as if the arrow has fallen. What better time for Mr Dylan to reappear. Missing all of the hippy scene, in January 1968, one of his best, ‘John Wesley Hardin’. People always write about The Stooges, or The Ramones making simple Rock ‘n’ Roll, or stripping down the music to the bare essentials and starting again. Ah, Mist ! (bullshit). I love those bands, but it is shit, they played like that because they couldn’t play any better ! Johnny Ramone said, in interviews, “We didn’t play any covers, because we couldn’t play anybody else’s songs.” It was Mr Dylan, and The Band who really stripped music, cut out all the excess and brought it all back home. And after Mr Dylan comes back ? The Beatles make ‘The White Album’ and The Stones make ‘Beggar’s Banquet’.

“Then we have the trio of Rock deaths, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. But what about the other trio of drug casualties ? Pink Floyd’s Sid Barrett ? Peter Green, a guitarist as good as, if not better than Clapton ? And, our old friend, Brain Wilson ? If he had finished ‘Smile’, how would he have followed it ? What would The Beatles have written in response ? Not ‘I Am The Walrus’, I’m sure. Who knows what great music was waiting to be written ?

“Do you know what the first bootleg was ?” Burkhardt asked, rather abruptly.

“Yeah, it’s Dylan, ‘Great White Hope’, I think.”

Burkhardt smiled and gave a single nod. He moved over to a corner, to the Classical section that Richard hadn’t seen, and pulled out a record with a dark sleeve, showing a wooden Crucifix.

“Good answer, but not right. This: ‘Miserere Mei’ by Allegri. Do you know the story ?”

Richard didn’t, so Burkhardt changed The Beach Boys for the new disc and waited for the first notes, so as to adjust the volume.

“It was kept by The Vatican. One of the Pope’s thought it was so beautiful, that it mustn’t be allowed to leave Rome. Not only that, it was only to be played in the Sistine Chapel, only at Easter. One year, a young man was able to hear it, maybe once, possibly twice, but certainly no more than that. He went straight to his room and wrote it out, note by note, from memory. The boy’s name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was facing excommunication from the Church, but the new Pope was so impressed by his talent, that he permitted it. And if Mozart hadn’t been there, in Rome, at the time, maybe we wouldn’t be able to listen to it today.”

They sat in silence, just listening to the extraordinary heavenly singing. Burkhardt spoke, but no longer to Richard, his remarks were addressed to an unseen audience.

“I like to think that the arrow continues, that other bands can get a little of that creativeness and inspiration and, who knows, maybe again, we will have a Golden Age of classic after classic, after classic.”

After the piece had finished, Burkhardt caught up on paperwork, and Richard played Pet Sounds and John Wesley Hardin.

When they returned to the flat, Chris had only just woken up and was feeling hideous. He refused a coffee, made a very embarrassed ‘thank you’ and left with Richard, who agreed to re-visit the store in the near future. He kept putting it off and when he finally did go back, it was gone, a Head Shop taking it’s place, a store selling Oriental merchandise and marijuana paraphernalia.

On returning home, Chris went straight to his bed and was asleep immediately. Richard took a shower, then went to the Kino (Cinema) and later to a few bars in Kreutzberg, just hoping to bump into Monika and therefore Lorelei. But he saw no one and drank alone.

SmileBW04.jpg

On September 28th 2004, a re-recorded ‘Smile’ was finally released.

Love and Chaos Part 4(I) Arizona Al 1

21st January 2021

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 TV 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 they’re 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 (though he would denounce these when asked) 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.