Hamburg Street Conversation

Posted in germans, WTF by expatatlarge on July 20, 2012

I’m well rugged up and walking, my daily mild exercise, around the tree-lined streets of the Blankenese suburb in Hamburg close to the Elba (across which is the A380 factory). I stroll past some magnificent Hansel and Gretel mansions in large, lost in the woods gardens – this is millionaires row, billionaires, whatever.

A well-dressed man, a bit older than myself, is crossing an intersection coming towards me. He slows down as he approaches me and it seems he wants to talk.

He stops, so I stop. Germans are so polite when they are not trying to take over the world. So, thinks: I’d better do the same (it’s a tit-for-tat utilitarianism thing). I wonder what I am up for here. Have you heard the word of the Lord? Some pfennig for the old guy?

He starts talking as I take my left earphone out. In German of course.

“Nick sprecker Doych”, I say. “Ick hab kynner Doych.” In my impeccable accent.

“Ach, vot language? You speak, what do you…”


“Ach, good.”

I take out my right earphone and raise my sunglasses to look him politely in the eye.

He is wearing a classy red windbreaker (I can’t make out the brand) over a warm jumper as the summer in Hamburg is not all that impressive this week; cloudy, blustery, cool (14deg), a spit of rain today, pouring yesterday. He has what look like expensive-frames on his thick-lensed square glasses, and he swipes the air with a thick cigar stub that trails noxious fumes that dissipate quickly in the breeze as he speaks to me. He might live in one of those billionaire houses.

He says: “You know, I have stopped you to talk because, one, you have your sunglasses on; two, you have those… he waves his cigar around… those things in your ears; and three, because I wish to ask you a question.”

The man is, I am confident now, not a complete nutter, but pushing it. Eccentric billionaire.

“Der built zeitung, you know?” I must have looked blank because he asks again. “Der built, it is the, vat you say, newspaper?”

Ah yes, Bild. I recall some German scandal rag like that.

“The very first word in der Bild today, do you know what it was? The very first word?”

Naturally I did not know. I shrug.

“The first word on the page. It is bordell.”


He doesn’t seem to have heard me because he repeats, “Bordell. You know where women sell themselves. A bordell!”

“Brothel.” Yes, I know them.

“Yes, yes, a brothel. The very first word! What do you make of that? What is your opinion?” He holds his cigar up at his face, takes a puff, as he waits for my answer.

I smile as I consider what his opinion no doubt is.

“Well,” I say, “Germany is a very open minded country, a very broad minded country.”

He tilts his head back a little, looking in my eye with a bit of sparkle as he contemplates my answer briefly. He then points his cigar at me with slight gesture and gently smiles.

“Thank you”, he says emphatically. And walks on.


The Death Of Blogging?

Posted in blog stats, blogging, germans, sentence structure by expatatlarge on March 13, 2011

Rumours of my continued existence appear to be somewhat exaggerated…

I suppose I could go into yet another spasm of hand-wringing and tongue-lashing (that’s GOTTA hurt – saw it on a porn site) about how Facebook has destroyed blogging and Twitter has destroyed all mindless morons, I mean CAUSED once relatively normal (slightly above and below middle on the bell-curve) people to become mindless morons (outliers on the low side!), but I won’t (go into a spasm). Or maybe I will. I can never anticipate what I’m going to type when I fire up the create-post page of Blogger. What? You say you’ve noticed this?

That uncertainty may in part be the reason that Facebook and Twitter are doing so well viz-a-viz blogging (at least by me). There’s no chance in one’s posts on these brain-fart sites to ramble-on, no opportunity to let the flow of words take you where they might (may?). You can put in a YouTube or a link and make some terse and pithy comment, but that’s not the same as blogging. Except when it is the same, c.f. most of my recent posts.

Time is short, precious, money, fleeting (fugit). Just gimme the precis, the 240 character pitch, the short version, cut to the chase… There’s too much stuff coming in, not enough time to sort it and analyze it all, or even AT all. And Google doesn’t always help.

I read something the exhaustively prolix William T Vollman said to describe himself, by way of apologizing I guess for his recent 500(!) page book on Noh theatre – “Rarely able to compose a short sentence, let alone a short book…”

Well, it’s become fairly obvious, at least to me, my friends and everyone I know, that I will never write MY apocryphal book, long or short, unless I stop going out partying with said friends, etc… 365 days a week, it seems to my liver and brain (substance not consciousness, except for memory and the incredible and explicable rise of my typo ability lately). So let’s skip that bit about writing novels. As for sentences, maybe I can do them. The ability to put together a paragraph that has variety of sentence lengths, some short, some shorter, some really quite long as they become full of divergences (and asides) as one brain-fart incepts (new verb? No. ­čśŽ ) new brain-farts within it ad ridiculum until that sentence stretches out like those immensely long, colonated and semi-colonated sentences, perhaps in some German text you were forced to read in high-school; in translation of course, as German was not so popular in schools back then (or was it, because anyway I did French – didn’t EVERYONE learn French?): One in which the sentences went on and on, one of those sententious, immensely and unnecessarily detailed, all-in-one, sesquipedalian sentences by, say, Thomas Mann or someone of his national ilk (also guilty is that silly Frenchman, Marcel Proust, who wrote a 3000 page sentence about remembering something we’d all already forgotten by the end), so that the overall deadening and confusing effect of trying to read and hold all the meaning in one’s head of such a monstrous string of allegedly linked words, rather than instilling a love of the Reich’s Kulture and its jolly Volk in your impressionable soul, instead turns you off Germans, German literature (no Goethe! no Schiller! no Schopenhauer! no Nietzsche! no Grass! no Handke! no more!) and Germany all together, without even having to consider the Holocaust (or the great literature that might come out it, like, um, say, Sophie’s Choice) which is of course ironic if you “decide” to marry a half-German fraulein (no longer a jungfrau, oops) as I did, and then it has the verb right at the end, so you get lost, not certain if the sentence – with all its sub-clauses and inter-locutions – actually still makes sense, is something I think I can manage. Hands up if you agree.

I mean, why would anyone NOT want to read this blog? It’s beyond me.


Ah, no, my blog is not dead – it’s only half way through March, there could life in the old bugger blogger yet!



p.s. It was in June last year that I was linked in Izzy’s blog… Who woulda thunk. Sigh.