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3,175: The joy of normal

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I wrote this on Monday evening. I was resizing the photos when I heard about the Breitscheidplatz thing. This post felt inappropriate to put up the morning after that. It’s simply about normal life, and specifically about normal life in Berlin.

Weird thing about being here: it feels so normal, so wonderfully normal. Staying in on a Friday and Saturday, just dicking around (drawing, YouTube, cooking, blah) rather than having fun in nice bars with friends. I like that I feel able to have a relaxed weekend. Not to have to cram every moment with fun. And I got a little bit emotional on an S-Bahn train on my way to get a couple of things from Ikea. Just the absolute normality of it gave me a lump in the throat. Normal, like the joy of feeling neutral again after you’ve had flu.

There were times in Berlin when I was dreadfully unhappy. Possibly even some sort of depression. (Depression is one of those words that I find difficult, cos I don’t want to be like those people who are a bit neat and tidy and describe themselves as OCD.) But I’ve been thinking a lot about Berlin and my feelings about this place since my visit last winter. It is home. Lincoln is where I grew up but from a fairly early age I knew I wanted to get out of there. London never felt like home. Mexico City doesn’t feel like home, it feels like the place I am currently living. And maybe the real joy of Berlin for me isn’t that it’s a wonderful arty fun place, maybe it’s that it is normal. Neutral. A white plate. How that white plate looks in the Instagram photo of one’s life is entirely down to what you have cooked. I find that London’s plate is already expensive and impacts what kind of meal you can eat off it. Mexico City’s plate is already somewhat oppressively busy-looking and you end up wanting some damn calmness.

Getting off the S-Bahn, I walked a route I’ve only done a couple of times (it’s a part of town I’ve only been to with the intention of going to Ikea. The route isn’t engrained enough to be familiar, but I recognised bits. Boring normalness. A billboard site that I remembered taking a photo of and blogging about in 2009. And when it came to crossing the road, a memory of being a pedestrian, annoyed by the roads. People walking back to the station with Ikea bags, blank faces. Me going there, mentally tensed ready for potential Ikea hell, chewing some chewing gum to the rhythm of the start of 24 Hour Party People by Happy Mondays.

(Another thing I did was kinda singing in my brain, Being Boiled by the Human League which morphed into Fade to Grey by Visage. I’ve recorded a bit of the former on my phone with me singing the latter at the appropriate place: mybrilliantsingingvoice.m4a My brain also does it with Getting Away with It by Electronic, and my head sings the words “all my life” in the chorus in the voice of Richard Butler, cos it sounds like a melody from a Psychedelic Furs song.)

The things you take photos of when you visit a city aren’t the normal things, they’re the things that seem special or different to the place where you live. So your New York, Barcelona, or São Paulo photo folder is full of the greatest hits, no album tracks or B-sides. In a way, it’s sad that we do this, but at the same time, really it’s just like enjoying the tea-ness of a cup of tea rather than focusing on the fact that it’s just water which has had some dried plant bits wafted around in it for a few minutes.

And it’s not about taking note of the beauty in normal life, it’s just acknowledging it. The photos on this blog post are not of under-appreciated Berlin things. They are just Berlin things.

Ikea was fine, I skipped straight to the section I needed, got my bits, paid and went to get my backpack from the locker I’d put it in when I arrived (not that I needed to, just habit from being in Mexico City where everyone treats you like a fucking thief if you’ve got a backpack). I’d decided not to buy an extra bag, but I’d woefully underestimated the size of my stuff, and soon realised only about half of my stuff would fit in there. Carried the rest. Four picture frames. Not too heavy, just a bit awkward, the way four things the same size do (books, etc.)

Back back back to the S-Bahn station, passing people doing the journey I had done. A day-long loop of people going to and leaving Ikea. Some guy on the platform shoo-ed away a pigeon in a violent penalty-kick-taking motion. I started at him, he stared back like what the fuck are you looking at? I was looking at yet another person in this world who doesn’t appreciate the beauty and magnificence of pigeons. On the escalator, my brain flashed to how I would combat homesickness when I first moved to Berlin, and again in Mexico City when I pined for my Berlin life: going to a big department store. They look the same everywhere. Ignore the signs that indicate which language local people speak, and you could be anywhere. It’s not about going somewhere British or Geman, it’s about that same thing again: being somewhere neutral. Neutral normality is where the heart is.

And as I typed the notes for this post on the S-Bahn train back up to my neighbourhood, the guy sat opposite me was having a phone conversation. Just a totally normal human. I can’t even picture his face now (tidying up the notes a few hours later). He ended his call with “I love you” and two kissy sounds.

The song in my head when I woke up this morning
Wasn’t My Fault by Christie and the Dream Beats. For me, this sounds like the sort of song that might’ve cruised to a Eurovision victory in the mid-90s. Popjustice, though, described it better in their Top 45 Singles of 2016 as “the greatest Kelly Clarkson song that never was.”

On this day
Notes from a train journey, 21 December 2011, after going from London up to Lincoln for Xmas.

Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article
Southern Cone.

I did a drawing of this for the Atlas, Schmatlas book. It’s got 2.5 stars on customer reviews on Amazon, which I guess means it’s average. There are really cheap copies there, though, so y’know…

Here’s one of the customer reviews that I’d not read before:

NOT A KIDS’ BOOK. I bought this for my 12 year old son who loves geography and loved Robinson’s baseball book. Very, very disappointed. It is full of obscene pictures and words. Luckily we scanned through it before we wrapped it. He is down one present under the tree this year.

Glad they liked the baseball book, sad they are very, very disappointed. This seems like it was a common assumption, that the cover indicated it was a kid’s book. I mean, I dunno about you, but I’d never buy a book for a child without have a look at it first, but there you go.

I had a look at the reviews on the .co.uk of Amazon, too, and found this:

This is a real wasted opportunity of a book. It’s a great, simple idea- a world atlas packed with comedy and lies- but ultimately it’s not as funny as it could or should have been.

There are some funny moments in here, but as the author takes on every country in the world, a lot of the writing feels like a first draft, the kind of thing many writers would go back to and re-write funnier later on. At times I felt like I could’ve written this book in a couple of days, given a normal atlas, Wikipedia, sufficient alcohol and a bucket of good old British prejudice. Large parts of it will date badly to 2007 too.

The illustrations are the strongest part of the book, but the text feels like it belongs more to a blog or a quirky website than justifying all the effort of a hardback book.

Missable.

That’s fair. I can understand why someone would think it belongs on a blog, cos that’s pretty much how it started. FYI: there were five drafts done. And it took about six months to do. And no, you couldn’t have written it in a couple of days. And this where I stop cos I’m tempted to go through every bad review now, and I’ll be here for ages. Sigh.

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Written by Craig

December 21st, 2016 at 3:08 am

Posted in Blah blah,Music,Photos

3 Responses to '3,175: The joy of normal'

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  1. “…obscene pictures and words.”, like God distracted by a foxy lass? Being from Finland, that was my favorite part!

    Jonne

    21 Dec 16 at 05:14

  2. ^ ha ha ha!

    Craig

    21 Dec 16 at 07:11

  3. ♫ The White Stripes – Your Southern Cone Is Mine

    Stephen Jackson

    22 Dec 16 at 03:16

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