Having been in Berlin for almost two weeks, I’ve decided to become a punk. I’ve been spying on them like a creepface since I got here, and am now planning the transformation.
I was only thinking the other day that it was time to rid myself of my squeaky clean image. The conversion would be quick and easy and wouldn’t require more than the purchase of a dog and a new wardrobe.
Plus, the lifestyle seems a lot less stressful than that of a journalist. Here are some notes I’ve made in advance of my conversion:
Punks in Berlin tick all the boxes. They have to – after all, they are German punks.
Most sport at least one stylish luminous spike, which bears a keen resemblance to a rhinoceros horn. Colours can vary, but red and green are preferred.
Piercings are mandatory. At least one nose ring is essential, as is a leather jacket with metal accessories. Spikey collars and patchwork black denim are encouraged but not proscribed.
Punks in Berlin are required to own dogs. These are unusually large hounds with leather collars, who, foaming at the mouth, are taught to snarl at conformist passers-by.
Berlin punks are early-risers. In the mornings you meet them hanging out at the U-Bahn stations taking swigs out of bottles of local beer and occasionally shouting obscenities on the escalators.
All in all, they are a benign bunch, characterised more by their sartorial conformity than by any act of rebellion.
I know I should be telling you more important things than about my dreams of joining a subculture but the problem is, all the things that are worth writing about, are “off-the-record.”
I would love to write about the Spiegel newsroom, where I spend the majority of my time in front of a computer translating articles about potential wars with Iran and the future of nuclear power in a post- Fukushima world, all while a mere three minutes away from the Brandenburg gate. But I can’t.
I’d like to talk about some peculiar characters I’ve had the delight of meeting but there’s a danger they might be reading.
I could of course write about Cauchy the housecat, who I am learning to love despite my well-documented feline aversion but that too could have libellous repercussions since Cauchy is showing signs of literacy.
Or I could tell you about the weekends I’ve spent alone wandering round the magnificent city, breathing in the incredible creative energy it contains and turning strange corners to find yet another beautiful expanse to inspire the senses. Last Sunday morning, I ventured out to the famous fleamarket at Boxhagener Platz, which is near me, and whiled away the hours looking at beauty magazines from the DDR times, and at old-fashioned dolls, which sat bolt upright in their prams, staring at me.
But usually at the end of the day I am so tired that all I can do is grab a block of frozen spinach, which I buy for 35 cents in Netto, and shove it into a saucepan with an onion.
I could write about being alone, or about Skyping with LSB or about my flatmate, who is the sportiest person I have ever met and even stretches recreationally but as I’ve said before, this is not a diary.
Those tales I reserve for those of you with which I enjoy the pleasure of a private conversation.
I can report that I visited the largest chocolate shop in the world last weekend and that it was absolutely magnificent. The chocolate Reichstag was infinitely more impressive than the real thing and the enormous slabs of almond chocolate laced with cherries to die for.
I also went to a street where the last cement slabs of the wall still remain in their original position. Pristine on one side and covered with graffiti on the other; a tidy contrast between freedom and repression. I climbed up high and looked down on the barbed wire fencing and Soviet watchtower and at the high-rise flats on either side, where east and west Berliners could wave at each other while the watchmen took a nap.
I’m alone at home now, with my feet toasty beside the radiator and the cat asleep in the armchair beside me. It’s very still here just now. Soon the neighbours will turn up their music and I’ll hear the clatter of footsteps in the hallway outside.
But for now, I’m going to enjoy the silence and curl up with a copy of The Steppenwolf, which I bought on Unter den Linden from the vendor that never ceased to talk.
Goodnight from Berlin.