Archive for October, 2009
I had a bit of an argument with a complete stranger this afternoon. I was stood at the bus stop waiting to go into town to meet an old friend. There were some stickers for the British Movement on the glass panes of the bus shelter. As the name might suggest, they’re one of those daft racist political groups. I whipped out my (new) camera and took a photo of one of the stickers.
I put my camera back in my bag, and was rooting around to find a pen to scribble out the Web site URL on the stickers. As I was doing this, I noticed a guy on a motorbike on the other side of the road. He was stopped, and looked like he was waiting for a gap in the traffic to go back in the direction he’d come from. When he moved, he pulled up in front of me.
My first thought was that he was going to ask for directions. He didn’t. He asked what I was taking a photograph of. As is human, several thoughts crashed through my head: is he a British Movementeer? is he gonna want to hit me? could I take him if we did get in a fight? (He was in his fifties and not particularly big, so, yes, I could’ve taken him. Unless he knew karate.)
I asked him why he wanted to know. He didn’t properly answer the question and asked why I was taking a photo of that bedroom. He gestured to the bedroom of the house that was beyond the bus shelter. I told him that I was taking a picture of the sticker, not the bedroom.
“Can you show me the photograph?”
“Because I think you were doing something suspicious.”
“Well, I wasn’t; and what business is it of yours?”
“I’m a prison officer.”
I snorted a laugh, and told him that that’s not a policeman. I mean, in hindsight I should really have pointed out that he might as well have told me he was a carpenter for all the authority his job has outside of the prison. He then said he was going to call the police. I’d found myself in a situation I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t want to back down and show him the photograph, but at the same time, him calling a policeman would be a great big hassle that I didn’t have the time or inclination to get into. And you know what policemen are like these days when it comes to people taking any sort of photograph in the UK. They seem to wave the terrorism card and get all shirty. So, childishly, I asked him to say please. He did, then I showed him the photo.
I’ve blacked out (err, blue-ed out, actually) the graphics, cos I really don’t want the British Movement’s image on the blog. (If you really do want to see what it says, here is the un-blue-ed version.) The bedroom he was referring to was right behind the sticker. And I’m rather thankful that I did something I don’t normally do when taking the photo: I turned on the zoom function which made the background nice and blurry.
I then pointed out that maybe he should be concerned that people in his neighbourhood have been putting racist stickers up on bus shelters. He told me was concerned, and the argument that we were both seemingly built up to really get into kinda fizzled out.
After he left, I had a go at removing the stickers which was surprisingly easy because they weren’t actually very sticky. Shoddy British workmanship, no doubt.
Typing notes into my iPod touch. A bit drunk. Sat in The Plough, a pub in Lincoln. Not in the centre of town but a pub that I’ve been in a few times. Most memorably when I came here after getting back from a job interview in London. I’d lived in Lincoln since finishing university, working in a record shop, and I came back from London knowing I’d got the job. I felt so on top of the world. I remember how proud my shoulders were that I’d finally done something that meant I could move to That London. I’m sat here now drinking Kronenberg alone. The last song was Children by Robert Miles, and right now it’s Disco 2000 by Pulp. It’s such an overwhelming thing being back in one’s home town. I guess that only makes sense if you come from a small provincial place. I don’t think you’d feel the same if you were brought up in a big city. To come back to a small town like Lincoln is like being reminded of who you were, who you could’ve been, and who you are. In the last six months I’ve learnt that I really am a city boy. No matter how much I think a semi-rural quiet life would be idyllic, I’ve come to know that for me to be the Craig that I like being, a decent-sized city is what I need. And being here makes me snobby about my hometown. My sister doesn’t live here either, and I spoke to her soon after I got home and found myself falling into my usual role as sarcastic older brother very easily. She asked how it was to be back in Lincoln and I told her that it was simply awful to be surrounded by ugly, fat people in tracksuits who looked like they’d never eaten an orange in their lives. This is my hometown. I can never change that fact. I can never change that I’ve spent 23 of my 39 years here. And I think that in a way, every horrid, snide thing I say about Lincoln to myself or to friends or to you is actually to myself. Lincoln isn’t a place to me, it’s what my life could’ve been had I given up. That’s not to deprecate people who stayed here, but it would’ve been so easy to give in to life and accept that friends and family are in Lincoln and that Lincoln is where my life would be. I’m so glad I applied for a job in London, even though I have no desire to live there. But getting out of Lincoln was the best thing I ever did, and I think there’s a natural pull that London has to anyone growing up in a small town who has some sort of feeling that where they are isn’t enough. London is the apex for English provincial people. And being in London isn’t perfect but it’s a good way to get rid of the cobwebs and the knots in your shoulders. London helped me realise that perhaps Britain wasn’t my home. Of course, I’m aware that the feelings I have about Lincoln are similar to the feelings I have about England in general. It’s why, when forced to think of where I’d live post-marriage, I decided upon returning to Berlin. Of all the places I’ve lived, Berlin is the one that feels like home. I feel good that I’m aware of that. After spending most of my life feeling like the next place might be the best place, it’s good to feel like the place where I live is home. I say that, but if I had the money and opportunity to live in New York, I’d be there tomorrow. And if I start to feel crappy in Berlin, I’ll be planning to up sticks to Buenos Aires in a heartbeat. Now the pub is playing that Gwen Stefani song which is fucking ace, the name escapes me; the “shit is bananas” song, you know what I mean- oh, now it’s Fergilicious. Good song…
I lost my camera yesterday. Either on the train to Lincoln, in Caffè Nero on Lincoln’s High St., or on the bus to me mum’s house. It must’ve slipped out of my pocket. Of course, there’s someone who now owns a Panasonic Lumix with a bunch of my photos on it. Thankfully, I transferred them all to my computer before getting the train, but I’d not deleted them, so someone will be enjoying a lot of photographs of the NFL game at Wembley Stadium and of my mate’s kids. They’ll also be enjoying a photo of me being a dork. So taking my cue from David Letterman, I’m going for the preemptive posting of an embarrassing photograph. I can explain all I want that it suddenly occurred to me that I had all the elements to dress up like this, and, y’know, it might be fun to pretend for a moment, but it doesn’t take away from the teenage idiocy of actually putting on the cap, jersey, pants and cleats, then prancing around in my apartment in the clothes and taking a photo of myself all dressed up like a proper New York Yankee. That’s right: I’m 39 years old.
This sticker was on the window of the taxi I was in last night. As my mate John said, it doesn’t say anything about no reacharounds…
On a Northern Line, between Tufnell Park and Archway, a ladybird landed on my thigh. He walked up my leg and onto my hand. Onto my index finger, he stopped and apologetically smiled, “I know… this is like that bit in You’ve Got Mail with the butterfly on the New York subway, right?”
“I was just thinking the same thing, but, y’know, you’re a ladybird so you’re special.” I said.
“I’m American, so I call myself a ladybug.”
“Oh right, where you from?”
“Where abouts is that? Anywhere near Philadelphia?”
“Yeh, kinda. Not too far north of Philly.”
“So what are you doing in London?”
“I got trapped in this dude’s laptop bag at the airport; ended up at Heathrow. I like it here, there’s some foxy lady ladybugs around.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Is there any significance to the number of black dots on your back?”
“Not really; they’ll kinda like what you’d call freckles. That guy next to you is totally invading your personal space resting his ankle on his knee like that, huh?”
“Yeh, he is. I’m not a fan of his shoes either.”
“Totally, dude, I hate those Vans shoes that look like big baked potatoes on the end of peoples’ feet.”
“Absolutely! That’s funny.”
“You know what I’ve noticed? So many people say that these days: ‘that’s funny’ or ‘that’s hilarious.’ When did people start saying that instead of actually laughing?”
“Well, y’know, sometimes things can be funny, but laughing would feel a little forced.”
“I guess your right… So what’s in the bag?”
“I bought a couple of baseball caps.”
“Oh yeh? what are they like? I like the one you’ve got on, it’s got a nice logo.”
“Thanks, this one’s a Montreal Expos cap; they don’t exist any more, they moved to Washington.”
“State or D.C.?”
“Beautiful city, awesome museums.”
“So I hear, never been.”
“And the new caps?”
“One of them is a Colorado Rockies cap. I’ve got two of their caps already. One’s all black, another is black with a purple bill, and this new one is all purple.”
“Wow, are they your favourite team?”
“Well, no, I’m that foreign cliche: a Yankee fan. But I have a soft spot for the Rockies, they’re kinda my National League team. And the other cap is a bit silly, it’s got a hot dog and two donuts on it, arranged like a face.”
“That. Sounds. Magnificent!”
“It is, aye.”
“Anyway dude, there’s a woman down there with some interesting yellow high heels, and she’s showing a bit of cleavage, so I’m gonna go check her out.”
“Fair play. Nice to meet you.”
“Alright man, take care. See ya.”
The ladybird flew off and landed on the woman’s Evening Standard. I looked up and saw the man sat opposite me was looking at me like I was mental.
I’m not really scared of flying. I used to be, but that was before I was on a plane heading to Miami at the exact same moment as Hurricane Katrina was heading to Miami. It was a bit bumpy, but I never felt scared the whole time. Since then, flying has been fine for me. But I do find myself, in the days before a flight, prefacing any future arrangements with “unless the plane crashes.” It’s my good luck preface. So if the plane crashes when I fly to London in a couple of hours, please remember me like this.
I’m not really feeling it at the moment. I came back to Berlin hoping that I’d hit the ground running and feeling like writing about the day-to-day stuff would be as normal and fun as it has been for the last two years on my travels and in the States. It’s not turned out that way yet, unfortunately. Mostly, I think due to it taking a very long time to get settled; something that still isn’t done. It took me three months to get into an apartment of my own, and after three weeks in this apartment (a lovely apartment in a fantastic neighbourhood, by the way) it’s still sparsely decorated (I’ve not got around to buying a fridge or TV yet), and that wonderful wonderful German customer service means that I’m not being hooked up with an Internet connection until at least the 27th of this month. Blows my mind how it can take a month to do that, but aside from making me grumpy, the net result is not feeling like my life is straightened out and ready to begin again. Still, it could be worse: at least my caps are in alphabetical order…
My mate Kevin and I went to see some fussball yesterday. Hertha Berlin vs. Hamburg. First live soccer game I’ve seen in about a year. Poor Hertha, bottom of the table, playing the top team; they go ahead after nine minutes and then self destruct: an own goal to equalise, and then two howling errors by the substitute keeper within the space of a minute, giving Hamburg a 3-1 victory. The Olympiastadion, though, is still a beautiful place to watch a game.
If you’re in the UK and a Guardian reader, you may be interested to know I did a couple of illustrations for today’s Guardian Guide section. One of those illustrations is on the cover (of the Guide). Woo hoo. They are illustrating an article about the forthcoming TV show about Sir Clive Sinclair starring Alexander Armstrong and Martin Freeman. If you don’t live in the UK or you buy the Daily Star, this is the cover illustration.