Keeping an eye on Costa Coffee, Egon quickly takes out his iPhone5, which he had found in a bar one night and managed to unlock. The light wasn’t great for photography but he didn’t intent to post the crime-scene pictures on Instagram.
Poor dog, what an end to a life filled with adversity and struggle. He makes a pledge there and then to find out who killed him, because in his mind there was no question that this had been a dogcide. A suspicion which is confirmed when he sees what looks like a stabbing wound on the dog’s right rib cage, very close to what must be the heart, Egon figures.
The stern police-woman’s superior is leaving Costa, heading for them and Egon decides it is high time to disappear in the crowd. Continue reading →
This is the first episode of DALSTON NOIR, a weekly Noir-Hipster-Crime-Serial set in London Fields.
Meet Egon Schmuck, 37, Hobby-Detective and antihero, at times filled with existential angst (due to not getting out enough) but mostly calm and currently unemployed. He’s deeply indebted to the UK welfare state because with some housing benefit and the odd cash-in-hand jobs he survives, and not badly.
The seeming wilfulness of his fashionable outfits hides a time-intensive approach of carefully considering various juxtapositions until a satisfying new combinations of his Oxfam bargains has transpired. This process takes almost as long as reading the sentence about it.
Oxfam has proven a haven for time-rich and purpose-seeking people like Egon and hours fly by when browsing the extensive book section, trays with cutlery and colourful postcard boxes.
Whenever nosy citizens have the cheek to ask Egon, what he does for a living, he replies as throwaway as possible that he is a freelancer, remaining as vague as possible about the actual nature of his non-work. Egon calls himself a London native (though he was born in a little village in Shropshire), his roaming ground is London Fields, not Dalston as he likes to point out, a great place to watch the human condition pass by, filling him with existential thoughts as he sips his coffee on Broadway Market.
Episode #1: Trouble on Kingsland Road
Egon checks his bank account and wonders whether he’ll make it till the end of the month when his housing benefit comes in. Lost in anxious thoughts, he walks down Balls Pond Road, when his attention is suddenly drawn to a crowd of people. His anxiety disperses instantly as he realises that today is his lucky day, as he has just happened upon a crime scene, and he elbows his way into the crowd of ogling by-standers. Continue reading →
Hedda Hoffman was an underpaid extra starlet, hanging around the Paramount Studio lot waiting for her big time. There were so many hopefuls just like her but she not only had resources, she was also resourceful and no one would ever be able to claim she’d slept her way to the top.
Her wedding ring was a prop and if that wasn’t enough for the groping talent scouts’ hands, Hedda would whisper gently and conspiratorially in their ear that she was suffering from a not-so-rare sexually transmittable disease. That usually cut short any kind of amorous fervour and bodily exploration, but was also risky because she didn’t want to end up as gossip fodder in Louella’s HollywoodReporter.
So, one step at a time. Yep, it was a men’s business but she wanted to make it on her own terms, not for nothing was her favourite smoking place underneath the big Klieg light, even if the emanating heat liquefied her carefully applied make-up.
7.30 am. There came Mr. Grant, on the dot as usual. She had skillfully re-arranged the cables so that he had to trip.
And who would catch his fall if not Hedda?
This story emerged from a prompt by Hausauspapier using today’s date (21st Feb in my case). If you want to join in, take the book you are reading or the one closest to you. Open it on page 21 (day), copy the second sentence (month) and add your own sentence or write a whole story.
Mine was David Niven’s autobiography Bring On The Empty Horses about the Golden Age in Hollywood and the sentence was ‘Kick her up the ass!’ Sure enough Hedda went into action again.
I’m carrying this clever prompt forward and you are invited to participate with a link in the comments section or by leaving a comment.
Winter carries the whiff of VapoRub, running noses, parkas, Disney-inspired, tinsel-heavy wonderlands (making you wonder a lot), not wanting to leave the house, man leggings, simmering family feuds surfacing over under-cooked Brussels sprouts, recycled Christmas gifts, optimistic diets and even more optimistic New Year plans, frostbite, reindeer jumpers, pretending Christmas is not happening by loudly singing Heatwave over schmaltzy Santa songs and always remembering that most things can be solved with a glass of mulled wine and chocolate coated gingerbread. Continue reading →
14 Stages of Developing the Malaise & How to Combat None of Them
But first of all, how do we attract this most alluring of possible mates?
Work non-stop for an extended period of time.
Make sure you take a combination of underground transport, where the air-shafts and sudden bursts of icy drafts send shivers down your spine.
Take your coat off as soon as you enter the stuffy, crowded, germ-infested carriage.
Work in a place which has air-conditioning so that getting used to an artificially induced cold in late October will make your system work overtime.
Ignore any signs your body sends out to slow down, cause really, it isn’t that bad.
Every time you’ve slept you will feel better until later when you don’t.
Take paracetamol and adopt the placebo-thinking that this will take care of your bodily malfunctions.
Prove to yourself that you are a hero and stronger than you think by going to work anyway. Then watch yourself falter.
What Not To Do Once the Amour Fou Has Overtaken Your Body, Mind and Soul:
Don’t walk into a 24-hour-Tesco without pharmacy with your hat pulled down halfyour face at 11 pm Friday night when the cashier is counting a stash of cash. Because by that time the throat pain is so bad that you croak at him in the hope of receiving pain killers in exchange, or any pill really.
A soft sunny afternoon in Belleville. Between the stalls and the crowd, somewhat forlorn, sits Antoine surrounded by knick-knacks, female clothes and high heels.
My girlfriend dumped me. Was in such a hurry, didn’t even bother to take her stuff. So as not to have anything remind her of the past, I guess. Just took off with another guy… And that’s exactly where I was living these past two years – in our dumped past. The first year I’ve waited, hoping she would change her mind and come back, maybe get bored of that other guy and realise her huge mistake. The second year I was fuming, wanting to burn her clothes and silly knick-knacks. Is it not enough being the one left behind? But being her rubbish man as well? Actually, coming to think of it, rubbish guy is spot on.
Antoine sits on a stool, his elbows resting on his knees, his face in his hands. Sulking, at odds with the world and the role he was handed to play. Not really interested in selling his wares, he stares at the ground when suddenly a pair of shoes appear, crazy over the top 70ies shoes. But what’s most bizarre about them is that the left shoe is on the right foot and the right one on the left.
Antoine gets confused just by looking, when a matter-of-factly female voice floats through the air, “I was born like this.”
Bewilderment mixes with curiosity and Antoine looks up. What he sees behind a long fringe is pleasant. “I was told that when I meet the right guy I will be normal again,” the matter-of-factly voice behind the long fringe says.
Antoine gets flustered because she clearly means him and flirts openly, “’Do you want to help me?” Antoine stutters, “Ehm…maybe…Though really, I wouldn’t know how.” He opens his arms in a gesture which says, totally not my field of expertise.
However, Mystery Girl is of the persevering kind and not easily put out “I don’t care how, just make it happen.” A smile, which could be called encouraging, plays around her lips.
Antoine feels uncomfortable, put on the spot. He looks nervously around, embarrassed to be trapped in this awkward situation and anxious to get out of it. But there is no escape. He has to man his stall.
He takes another look at Mystery Girl. She calmly gazes back at him with all the time in the world. Slowly synapses connect and thoughts start sinking in. After all she’s sweet and unique (not least because of her feet) and to be honest, he would like to help her out.
Taking another glance at his merchandise, the museum of his life spread at his feet, Antoine’s gaze falls onto a picture showing him and his ex. Annoyed he picks it up and throws it swiftly into the nearby rubbish bin, where it makes a clunk noise when landing.
On hearing this, Antoine breaks into a smile for the first time, the cloud of misery dispersed.
He turns to Mystery Girl but she’s gone. Sun rays dance and sparkle.
Does anybody actually have time to read blogs or anything for that matter?
If truth be told, I need several lives. Fortunately, Reincarnation is there for each and everyone of us. At least the Buddhists don’t differentiate between believers/good and non-believers/bad. On a whole, they are far less judgmental and critical than the Catholics with their pre-planned itineraries of: GOOD people this way please and the BAD turn right at the corner and down the escalator which will take you to where we all know where. Continue reading →
Or A German In London *Warning: clichés and stereotypes abound
I first came to Britain on a class trip in 1992 and nothing prepared me for the melting pot that was and is London. Walking down the street, I couldn’t believe the sheer diversity of faces, nationalities, religions and cultures. This was G. E. Lessing’s dream of (religious) tolerance put into practice in everyday Britain in the late 20th century. Coming from a country where there was hardly any non-German soul living/working/studying/on benefits – this was extraordinary. Continue reading →
Ha! I’ve just used click bait. In order to lure you onto this page I cunningly posed a question you are dying to find the answer to. Now I got you here but in order to find out which Muppet you are, you will have to read the whole post. No claim, no pain, no gain.
I could have also used a statement which gets you witlessly worried, such as: You Won’t Believe the Effect the Internet’s Having On Your Brain. Actually, that’s quite a scary subject matter and I will deal with this in another post.
But back to the essential bits of life. The other week a friend complained about not being able to go online for 2! hours, sending her into a spiral of Weltschmerz and meaninglessness. Not a stranger to smug replies, I suggested, try reading a book, wink wink.
That’s when karma got me by the derriere. Only when it happened to me, it wasn’t just 2 hours but a whole week of being sans internet. And no, I couldn’t use my phone because my data-allowance lasts a whole day these days because:
1. I didn’t listen to my friend Rubi when I got my contract.
2. Instagram used to be something other people did who didn’t have a life.
No. Internet. For. One. Week.
I wish I could say my sense of smell returned, or that I perceived colours more colourfully, or that suddenly there was a spring in my step and the sun shone brighter. But nay. I felt bereft. Somewhere I knew that there was still purpose to my life, I just had to find it. Quickly.
In order to maintain an air of dignified calm I kept telling myself, I don’t really need internet. Even people who think they really really need internet, don’t really need internet. They think they do, which is different. I think I do, which is not. To make sure, I looked up Maslow’s pyramid of life’s necessities, starting with the basic ones and going up to more unbasic ones. My fears were confirmed, the Internet was nowhere on it.
Internet isn’t food. It isn’t housing. It isn’t friends. It isn’t air to breathe. It isn’t a life-partner, even though for some of us it might seem that way. To find out just how important the Internet is for you, answer this simple question (no, it’s not the Muppet one): Would you die without Internet?
If your answer is a firm YES than there is nothing else to do but get unlimited data allowance, grab your recharger, stay close to a plug, smile at your phone lovingly, inhale deeply and hug it very very tightly.
If your answer is NO, then really I don’t know what to say. You obviously have a life. You must have found meaning elsewhere. Maybe even in the real world. Maybe in paper-bound books. Maybe in mixed tapes you rewind by turning your finger inside the serrated hole. Maybe you found it by wiping printer’s ink off your face. Maybe you are talking to real people in the real world. You might even be hugging trees instead of looking at a picture of one.
On a whole, you are wholly superior to the rest of us phone huggers. But remember, we are in a parallel universe, so don’t get bothered by us needing to be constantly online, because, after all, we are only trying to find out which Muppet we truly are.
Dreading the moment my time of magical thinking will come to an end and my bank account will tell me to look for a job, I’ve been thinking about my CV. All 100 versions of it. I also thought about all the places who offer help in presenting me in the best possible light and advise on what to put in and what, most importantly, leave out. How in the past I squeezed and distorted my past experiences to fit some kind of job description, usually ending up feeling diminished and not wanting a job at all.
Now, still not wanting to be employed but simply be a Mensch who gets paid for writing, I can finally pen a more comprehensive, less glamorous but ultimately, more realistic account of my life.
I was born in 1973 in a town on the Polish border to a father who was born in Zagan, Silesia, in what is now Poland. In the gruesome winter of 1945 his mother, fleeing from the Russians and her past, carted him together with his two siblings in a trolley all the way to Thuringia where she sold the little jewelry (and other non-material things) she had in exchange for food and worked in semi-slavery for a farmer. That was the story of bravery and survival she told us and the one she had decided to live with, conveniently leaving out the nasty bits of what happened before, during and after the War.
My mother’s family had been brought to Thuringia by my grandfather from Teplice in Czech. After ’45, with all the so-called anti-fascists and communists remaining in the Russian sector, what was to become East Germany after the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, my grandfather became chief of the local agricultural production cooperative (LPG).
My parents, possibly brought together by a shared past of immigration and displacement, fell in love in their teens and later moved to Frankfurt/Oder where I was born. My mother was appointed judge overseeing company law, thus circumventing more political and therefore treacherous judicial appointments and resolved herself to resolving petty conflicts between socialist companies who generally didn’t meet their targets according to whatever 5-Year-Plan had been concocted.
However, after the Fall of the Wall in 1989 when DDR-citizens were allowed to view their Stasi-Files, it became apparent that she also was an IM, which stands for ‘Informeller Mitarbeiter’ (informal collaborator) for the secret service Staatssicherheit. To show you how short memories are, she was allowed to continue working as a judge regardless and later sent into retirement with flying colours.
My father, a surveyor without a proper degree, in the meantime managed to lead a somewhat Bohemian life, working as football trainer for kids and a few other things. And because he lacked professional ambition and the required mindset he got away with not joining the Workers’ Party.
According to government policy, everyone was looked after, had a flat and a job. Some merited the job they had, some didn’t. Mostly, the lowly jobs generally available didn’t merit the people doing them. A career, even though that word was not part of GDR vocabulary, was only possible if you kept personal opinions to yourself, informed on friends, family and colleagues and were a member of The Party. Being a dictatorship of the proletariat (that term in itself as absurd as it was fictitious) everybody was meant to be equal. There was no class-system; wages were not that different whether you were a dentist or factory worker. So far so Animal Farm.
As most things, apart from the basics, were in short supply, a culture of exchange and swapping deeds was thriving. Car parts in exchange for a sack of cement, Germina trainers in exchange for a bottle of Czech Schnapps. The carpenter swapped his services with the plumber, the builder who got you the bricks for your Dacha was paid in-kind. People depended on one another which brought about a sense of solidarity, ingenuity and, not always voluntary, mutual appreciation.
And thus Ossis went about their daily lives, keeping their hopes low and horizons small, which was aided by only being allowed to travel within the Eastern Bloc countries and having limited access to Western media. Knowing all the time that Big Brother Stasi was watching and keeping meticulous records to later use for blackmail, intimidation and, most importantly, to assert power and control over its unruly citizens.
The dismay of knowing the watchful eyes and keen ears of the Secret Police were everywhere was so inherent in the people’s psyche that the Stasi’s means of mass surveillance became a quasi urban myth. In order to cope with its abstract and at the same time real threat and to go on regardless, the Stasi and its functionaries became something to make fun of with the people one trusted.
It wasn’t until Mikhail Gorbachev came to power that Ossis dared to hope for some light at the end of the tunnel. Words like Perestroika and Glasnost were radical not only in the sense of utter change and renewal they implied but also in the magic they subtly weaved in people’s blocked and brainwashed minds. What a man. What a politician. I still wonder how a quiet revolutionary like him made it to the top of a corrupt and deeply reactionary political system. I had the fortune to see and hear Mr. Gorbachev at the Cinema for Peace Gala at the Berlin Film Festival in 2009 and knew there was the man who not only changed the course of history but also the course of my life in myriad ways. I cried.
If I want to cheer myself up and feel boundless gratitude, I think about what would have become of me if the Berlin Wall hadn’t come down.
I was 15 years old in 1989 and for various reasons not selected for A-levels. The only possibility to get my A-levels anyhow and not end up in some factory polishing metal parts for electric fence energisers for the rest of my life, was to take up an apprenticeship as Storage Technician and do my A-levels on the side.
Trying to picture my impending future brought up Kafkaesque visions of huge storage facilities filled to the brim with boxes and me on a forklift going around and around to nowhere. An adolescent sense of doom descended and I envisioned my life as a grey mass of imprisoned nothingness.
But history had different plans.
As tectonic plates were already shifting in the summer of 1989 and new opportunities sprung up left, right and center I managed to get a place at the local Lyceum, and surrounded by old class mates who had made it as well, the two best years of my life so far commenced. Although the tough East German exam-system was still in place and I almost failed math and chemistry, I remember laughing and joking with my best friend so much that one of us was regularly asked to leave the classroom. Looking back I think it was the hysteria of never-before tasted freedom and possibilities which made us giddy with joy.
Throughout one thought was festering: I NEED TO GET OUT. Leave my home, my hometown, my former socialist-realist home country, to see and become part of the WORLD.
Consequently I did what all American tourists do when they come to Europe – see as much as possible in as little days as possible. And off on an inter-rail adventure my bestie and I went: Paris, Marseille, Arcachon, Rome, Venice, Athens, Corfu, Istanbul. Wide-eyed natives staring at the Eiffel Tower and throwing up in a bistro, sleeping rough in Italian train stations, passports tied around the waist, riding horses on the beach, suffering sun stroke and diarrhea on the ferry, encountering our first proper West Germans in the form of fellow travelers, smoking our first dope, learning from an American girl how to use toilet paper to blow our noses, schlepping our backpacks through Venice in the August heat looking for Marco Polo, drinking apple tea with carpet sellers in Istanbul and wondering briefly whether it would be a good idea to take a bus to the Middle East.
By then well versed in the art of prioritising and survival, culture was taking a backseat and we opted to stay put and for a tourist meal rather than visiting the Acropolis once we got to the top of the hill.
Then I turned eighteen and my life truly began.
Of course, just like my CV, this is an abridged and polished version of my experiences. I left many more things out than I put in. But for now this has to do.