How to be a hit among your chosen demographic

If, like me, your natural disposition is ill-suited to the modern-day rat race, I would recommend infiltrating a group of seniors. After extensive exposure, I discovered age to be the single greatest factor affecting my personal popularity.

In fact, among the over-65s, I enjoy close-to-celebrity status.

Here’s how you could too.

1. Develop a permanently pleasant and attentive expression

For years I thought that when people said I was a good listener, they were being kind about me being a poor speaker. But it turns out that years of pretending to listen to people who bored me allowed me to develop a highly attentive expression and an uncanny ability to match my face to the appropriate tone of the conversation, despite not being consciously aware of the topic under discussion.

This makes you appear wholesome and respectful, two of the most coveted characteristics among the over-65s.

2. Use your nationality to your best advantage

After tricking seniors into liking me with my pleasant and attentive expression, I tell them that I’m Irish. They use this information to justify their positive first impression. “Oh, Ireland,” they say. “So lovely and green!” Once when I gave up my seat for an old lady on the train, she said “I bet you are not German! They have no manners any more.” When I confirmed that I was, in fact, Irish she said “I knew it!”

3. Start a blog and employ an unusual marketing strategy

As well as visiting Frau Bienkowski, I’ve started volunteering at a seniors’ club. It is an incredible place and I have started counting down the days until I am old enough to sign up to all the activities offered there, from herb-tasting and cooking classes to tango dancing and Chinese conversation. Along with four other lovely volunteers, I’ve set up a blog called Berlin ab 50 where there’ll be articles, podcasts, videos and more catering to the over-50’s living in Berlin. If you’re over 50 or German or reading this right now, you should check it out!

If you follow and adapt these handy tips, you too could become instantly popular among your chosen demographic.

My boyfriend is a savant

My boyfriend is a savant. He can multiply enormous numbers by each other in seconds and can list the members of my expansive German family in order of age without ever having been formally taught. He can recall facts about obscure historical figures I’ve never heard of and whenever we share a book to read, I have to skip paragraphs to keep up with his page turning.

Of course he denies it. He shakes his head with a bemused smile, masking the beginnings of faint frustration and says, “I’m not a savant, Katzi”. Then I ask him to multiply 678 by 78 and he says “52,884”.

“Is it really?”
“I think so”, he replies modestly.
I check it on my phone. He’s always right. I have found that he finds it difficult to refuse an offer to compute.

Being a savant’s girlfriend has its complications. One becomes idle. Instead of whipping out a calculator, or typing something into Google, or even better lifting one of my enormous encyclopaedias, I call him.

Another problem I have found is that it is extremely difficult to find a fault or defect to offset the genius quality. As well as knowing lots, he’s also unbearably humble.

The difference between us is that I don’t like to let the facts get in the way of a good diagnosis. I understand that according to the Strict Diagnostic criteria, LSB unfortunately does not qualify as a savant. However, this does not stop me from addressing text messages to him with “What’s up, Savantface?”

In an effort to refute my hypothesis, this Christmas he gave me a book with the title “Islands of Genius” with a foreword written by my hero Daniel Tammet. I fear he thought that reason was the way to a change of heart. This book, like most academic works, disguises interesting and insightful points with dull prose.

Peculiarly, though I received it last week, the inside cover claims it to have been “first published in 2012”. I see this as nothing more than further evidence of LSB’s preternatural processing speed.

Leprechauns trade in gold as downturn hits the streets

On North Great George’s Street this morning I saw a woman pushing a buggy with her belly while using her hands to scrape a scratch card with a coin. I imagined the baby going flying as she raised her arms in jubilation but alas, it didn’t happen. This morning wasn’t her lucky day.

I enjoyed the image though, particularly as it happened right outside the tacky off-license at the corner where a few days ago I saw the homeless man who sits on O’Connell Bridge (with his rabbit and dog) buy booze. He stuffed his rabbit into his shopping trolley and held the dog under his arm while he rummaged for coins to buy his cans. He could have gone to Centra but he was looking for good value. Aren’t we all?

If these moments tell us anything about the Irish, it’s that we’re damn good at recessions. If it’s a quirky economic downturn you’re after, look no further than Dublin city centre.

Without a doubt the creature that has benefitted most from the downturn is the Leprechaun. This being, formerly associated with ancient folklore and American gullibility, (“Do you really have leprechauns in I-Ur lend?“) has experienced an unprecedented comeback in times of austerity. On Grafton Street you can find a man of about two and a half-foot who has painted his face orange, attached a ginger beard to his chin and placed a pot at his feet. He looks a little like an Oompa Lumpa from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film. If you felt sorry for him I think the joke would be on you; he’s probably making a killing. Size matters.

Size matters so much among opportunistic leprechauns that the one that hovers around the Molly Malone statue is enormous. His artificial head is about six times as big as his own. He waves his gigantic leprechaun arms awkwardly at passers-by and of late he has decorated his crock of gold with silver tinsel. The other day I saw him leaning against a lamppost on the phone, with his huge fake head under his arm. He didn’t look Irish, which made it all the more wonderful. He’s probably an economic downturn migrant from the BRIC area who’s heard that no one throws a recession session quite like the Irish.

It’s not all fun and games though. There are feuds on the streets; warring factions have developed. Resentment is building.

You can see why.

Way before economic opportunism was in fashion, an old man from Cavan had an idea. He decided to put on a tweed cap and a patchwork waistcoat and sit on Molly Malone banging on a badhrán. The tourists loved it. He’d motion to them to come sit beside him and encouraged them to take photographs. He even bought spare tweed caps for them to pose with in the pictures. Once, when I was in my first year of university, I pretended to be a German tourist just to get a picture with him. If somebody else tried to sit down on the statue beside him, he’d snarl at them and tell them to clear off. He had the kind of audacity I can only dream of.

The good old days

It may be easy to mark your territory when the property market’s booming but things have changed. A few weeks ago, I saw my tweed-capped friend outside River Island, patting his badhrán with a sour face. Two American tourists stopped to have a look at him and quick as lightning he beamed. After both of them had had a go of the badhrán and dropped a few euro into his cap, he pulled them closer to him. Pointing at the giant leprechaun parading around Molly Malone, he whispered conspiratorially, “See that leprechaun? Don’t bother with him; He’s a fake”.

Budgets aside, recessions in Ireland are pure Gold.

Also, if you find this post facetious, you can read a serious piece about my opinion of the Irish here.

Celebs Spotted in Sandymount: LSB with lover in self-service till tiff

There was only one News of the World to be had today. It was torn and soggy and lay abandoned on a shelf in Tesco, Sandymount. As always, LSB was first to spot it. “There’s one there, Katzi” he said, “but it’s a bit of a mess”.

I picked up the grubby scraps of newssheets and examined them carefully. I’d been into every newsagent between Rathmines and Sandymount and: nothing. Nothing but broadsheets brimming with supplements sealed in surround wrap, and boxes full of half-price jammy dodgers.

I wanted the last- ever copy. And scarcity is a great fuel to desire.

I wanted it so that in years to come – if this whole teaching-writing thing doesn’t work out – I can advertise it on e-bay as a journalistic artefact. A wealthy media tycoon will invest and my fortune will be made. In public, my friends will praise my foresight but privately they will deeply regret popping their own copies into the green bin.

On the other hand, if this whole teaching-writing thing does work out, I will be moving in the kinds of circles where possession of such a sordid journalistic relic will afford no small amount of Fleet Street cred. Either way, my quality of life will improve.

But I was in a bind. Nobody was going to want a dirty, torn copy, and by the time I was ready to sell it, there’d probably be a NOTW nostalgia app available for the iphone26.

Today's NOTW; the last ever.

I dropped it back on the shelf with an exaggerated sigh.
“You’ve never bought the News of the World before, have you Katzi?”, LSB asked tentatively.
“No, no of course not”, I answered- rather ashamed that LSB was made of more moral fibre than to suspect me of a mercenary motive.
“I suppose I’ll get the Sunday Times then”, I said, grumbling all the way to the self-service till, where I tried scanning the main headline in favour of the barcode repeatedly, much to LSB’s contained mortification.

“Katzi”, he whispered “you put the coins in this side”.
“Yes I know”, I answered briskly. “Obviously”.

As we were sipping our mocha (his) and cappuccino (mine) a little later, I had a look at the front page of the Sunday Times. I could not believe my eyes.
“LSB?”, I ventured.
“Yes, Katzi?”
“Is Amanda Brunker very famous?”

“Well Katzi She is quite famous as an Irish celebrity,” he answered, measured as always.

“Hmm”, I said.

“Why do you ask?”

“She was profiled in the Irish Times yesterday” I said “but I’d never heard of her. Has everyone heard of her?”

“Most people”.


“I saw her video on youtube yesterday” I said. “She’s awful”

“Yes Katzi, she is”.

“How come I’ve never heard of people that everyone else has?”

“I don’t know, Katzi”.

I allowed a pregnant pause to occur.

“I should have read the News of the World more” I said with gravitas, tossing aside the Sunday Times Culture section and diving into my scone.


Why my career as a jouster was doomed to fail

I – KateKatharina – have never had poise and I never shall. For one, I was born with poor posture and no amount of my mother’s creative corrective strategies succeeded in straightening a back that was destined to curve. My movements too are sloppy and graceless. I scurry along; hunched forward with ostensible purpose (an elementary error) rather than amble breezily about my business, accomplishing tasks with efficiency while looking like I am casting but an impartial eye on my surroundings.

I have observed (obssessively) people that do in fact possess poise. Their handsbags (unlike mine) are never overflowing and they seem to have an ingenius packing strategy of which they are largely unaware. They never fumble for change for the bus or wear their dresses inside out (two of my favourite things) and their schedule is always just busy enough but never ever hectic.

In short, people with poise are cool as cucumbers whereas KateKatharina has the relative gracelessness of an aubergine. In this context, I release for the first time to public view footage of my jousting attempt at a medieval children’s festival in Bratislava.

The iron horse I have mounted was designed for children. During the day, I had not seen a single child fail in the mission which I finally mustered up the courage to undertake in the cover of night. If you laugh half as much as LSB did (and does) you will have a pain in your tummy.

Poise. Who wants poise?

A Royal Flush

I imagine that just about now, a rogue-ish Prince Harry is pulling back his hand-carved mahogany chair, after a few too many gulps of Montrachet 1978, to deliver his Best Man’s speech. I can almost hear the tap-tap-tap of his silver spoon on the rim of his wine glass and oh, despite the royal fuss of it all, what I’d do to be a fly on the crystal chandelier; or indeed one of the couple’s three HUNDRED “close” (but probably only facebook) friends.. There’s nothing for it but to deflect my curioisity by pondering the following five nuptial nuggets:

1.Kiss me, Kate?
When William and Kate kissed for the second time during the balcony scene, one of the BBC royal correspondents commented that “She was game, he less so”. Having watched this scene repeatedly and considered the comment, I am convinced of its inaccuracy . As delightful as Kate’s putative enterprise is- when watched carefully- it is clearly William who initiates Peck Two, unless I am missing some subtle display of microexpressions?

2. Wed-lock?
It’s well known that changes in temperature cause the limbs to expand and retract and it’s only natural that beneath her poise and exquisite cherry-lipped smile, the Princess was experiencing immense physiological imbalance. It was an agonizing few seconds, but William did finally succeed in encircling Kate’s blood-starved ring finger with a golden hoop- but what if he hadn’t managed? Could he have asked little bro for a hand?

3. How many times had they practised their vows?
They fail – they endearingly fail – to keep straight faces as they repeat before the eyes of God what they have been stumbling over ad nauseum for weeks.

4. Is William’s receding hairline indicitative of his humility?
It certainly is. As Prince, he could have opted for all sorts of cover-up treatments, and the fact is, he didn’t.

5. Does Princess Catherine’s academic future lie in the history of meterology?
Unlike most disciplines, meterology shows a distinct bias for future events over retrospective analysis. It was widely reported that Kate’s first official statement was that she was “glad the weather held up”. I believe this sagacious remark to be representative of an impressive and rapid immersion into the royal fixation with the past. At the same time, it adds a little authority and glamour to the utterance: “Lovely weather we’ve been having!”

And now to return to Harry’s speech, which he should be wrapping up about now: God save them all.

Plans for my retirement

Rupert - Image courtesy of

For some time now I have been contemplating retirement with singular focus. My requirements are modest but particular. For one, I intend to continue living in the cosy, two-storey red-brick, rat-and-mouse-proof house by the canal which I acquired for next to nothing in my mid-to-late twenties during an immoderate slump in the property market. In spite of the life of reluctant employment I have led, I will not be lured by idleness. I will occupy myself with both a vegetable patch and herb garden and feed the fruits of my daily weeding to my guinea pig, Rupert and his rabbit friend, Baltishar, who will munch dandelion leaves in amicable silence while gazing at me adoringly.

I will cultivate my faculties by daily mastery of the ancient Arabic scripts, having established firm mastery of the basics in quarter life. In the attic will be housed a superior telescope where I will while away long nights in contemplating the stars.

I willl engage in late rebellion by smoking hash for the first time, and by taking part in an extreme sport. Though it may seem uber-efficient- given my care-free lifestyle- I might take hallucinogens on the occasion of my first parachute jump. I will enjoy in equal measure my subscription to New Scientist and to Rolling Stone. I will engage in risk-taking behaviour on account of having achieved longevity, which fear of failing at, had held me back before. (Details of my quarter-life crisis can be found here). If LSB has had enough of me, I will become promiscuous.

Speaking of LSB, we are taking the train to Sligo in the morning for a jaunt in the northwest and for some time to ourselves, for the first time in aaaages. I hope that the mytho-poetic landscape there will inspire me to finalise plans for my retirement.

That is like so funny, NOT.

Try as I might, there is little in this world I find less funny than Anchorman. In these two minutes and twenty eight seconds, designed to tickle my funny bone and whet my apetite for more, the temptation to lol is absent and the possibility of lmaoing and rofling out of the question. But why then do I find frumpy Maeve Higgins and her sister having the banter while baking hilarious when  Ron Burgundy’s string of faux pas invariably leaves me straight-faced? Is what you find funny not more than simply a matter of which way the cookie crumbles?

Cognitive Psychologists believe that what you find funny depends on your interpretation of the incongruous. Which incongruities in particular amuse you depend on the level of intellectual effort required to recognise the inconsistency. Let’s take Stand Up comedy. It’s thought that jokes about rape get a laugh not on account of particularly twisted audience members but rather due to their acknowledgement that a taboo is being flouted and that on top of that, the Unspeakable is being treated with flipancy.

I have been thinking a lot in the past few days about the things that do and don’t make me laugh. Sarcasm never does.  The mental effort required  ro recognise the blantantly incongruous: that somebody is saying the opposite of what they mean just doesn’t cross the threshold of intellectual toil necessary to cause me to chortle. (Each to their own I guess….. :NOT?!) 

I am reduced to convulsions of laughter however by anything that approaches the Ridiculous, as long as it is left discreetly packaged in the Understated. Rape jokes don’t do it for me, but hidden camera shows, in which those taken in treat their pranksters (sometimes even consciously) with the sobriety appropriate to a genuine situation make me laugh. In these scenarios, you’ve got the obvious incongruity of the joker acting as something he’s not. In addition however, you have the intellectual pleasure of watching the punked-ee respond in accordance with the conversational and societal maxims they have imbibed through experience. Furthermore, the possibilities of their own moulding of the situation and the potential to ‘play along’ with the prankster leaves an element of unpredictability which itches my funny bone.

Speaking of the Unpredictable reminds me of the eighth wonder of the world: the apparent hilarity of a short clip that my parents watch without fail, every New Year’s Eve on Bavarian television. The clip is a black and white British sketch of the title “Dinner for One” and dubbed into German for maximum comedy. It portrays an imaginary dinner party given by a senile lady of royalty- status. The lady, imagining that she is surrounded by prestigious guests orders her butler to fill their glasses and heap their plates. The catchphrase of the dopey butler is the polite question:”Same Procedure as Last Year?” which is invariably answered by the delusional hostess in the affirmative. As well as that line, what makes my parents hysterical is the increasingly intoxicated state of the butler as he downs the drinks of the imaginary guests and falls repeatedly over the head of a tigerskin mat. Before I set off in hope of actual intoxication last New Year’s Eve, I watched with incredulous amusement as my parents came close to rofling off the sofa.

Given that I am pretty certain of my genetic relationship to those I call my parents, I cannot but conclude that there is no such thing as “Intelligent Humour”. What I can say without a doubt though, is that what you find funny is a representation of the way you view the world. And that may well depend on which way the cookie crumbles.