Weissensee [CTL-SHIFT-HOME-DEL] … Copacabana

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So, we have a beach. In the park across the road. Well all the Berlin lakes seem to! For some reason, today it is free. Usually a few € for the day… Got bars, changing rooms, showers and cute little huts… and of course old people braving the water. I had fully intended to make use of the lake for a bit of swimming this trip, but a drop to sub-20C plus wind and little sun made me less than keen. Dunno what’s happened to me, I swum every day in the Baltic, even in the deep, dark, cold Eckernforde…. Might be something to do with actually having the luxury of a shower to wash my hair in here, instead of 2 laps of the boat and the little pump-up shower [Portable car washer with demand showerhead – ace bit of kit].

Those thoughts cause pain. Part of me can’t believe I am not still out there. I’ll be sitting at my desk but not believing it, something in me more than half expecting to be approaching the lock at Kiel, puzzling out the lights of Den Helder, raking in Dutch fishing boat chandleries – greeting the dawn on the way to adventure… It *can’t* all be behind me. But it must be. For my sanity I have to let it be. I have to find new adventures now. Still, the disorientation sometimes makes me cry. Grief takes its own sweet time, and maybe longer for those of us architects of our own demise.

Back to present. To Here and Now. To being Present.

After my wander, I set about Sunday-proofing my next trip – cycled up to Lidl to get a couple of phone top up credits, Edeka to get some giant tins of soup, Mac Geis for a cooking pot – yes I can cook – the old fridge/hob thingy works fine – been using it… not least to help me with my continuing alcohol free beer sampling.

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Oddly, I actually prefer the dirt-cheap Lidl one in the plastic bottle. A bargain at 39c … and something to drink that’s not coffee or herbal tea! [I bought a kettle first day this trip]. I got out my guitar and vaguely plunked on it.  I also bought (in the interests of establishing acceptable local comfort foods) chocolate (59c) and own brand “gold bears” (89c) from Edeka and sulked on my mat reading and checking the internet for most of the afternoon, before putting the bicycle in the cellar, and packing up all except my D’vices and sleeping setup into my “sea chest” (lidded plastic crate from Obi) and sticking that out of the way in a corner of the bathroom (dead last on the renovation list).

I know I should have made something more of my day, gone a proper explore, gatecrashed “Hack and Tell” down at c-base and “partied” geek-style all night long in the 80s spaceship… but I’d fundamentally run out of steam, and boring, adult sense prevailed, reminding me just how shitty I feel doing the journey + a day at work + jam night with sleep deprivation.

So, settled to bed (and unexpectedly, actually to sleep) by 9:30pm. Ready for the usual 4:15am wakeup and flight back to the UK.  Don’t want to leave. Have to – for now… back (if briefly) very soon…

In der Kneipe

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Having failed at Saturday, picked up speed with Sunday, by Monday I think I had the hang of it. Thanks to the lovely Frieda, Dennis, Agatha and Alex for good company, chat (including the scoop on the best fleamarkets for epic guitar bargains) – and for introducing me to an awesome Alkoholfrei wheat beer!

Had a slight wait for a tram at Greifswalder Strasse on the way back, so tried for a pic that’s been tickling my fancy for a while. East Berlin is so retro that, despite internet that is as cheap and fast as anything in the UK, they still not only have video shops, but said shops do discount offers on porn. It’s a puzzle. I can’t imagine it’s ISP-level censorship, in a town that’s the home to a legal flat-rate All-You-Can-Eat brothel? Surely not?

 

I want to ride my bicycle

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So, I forgot Thursday. A common problem – I blame Arthur Dent, who never could get the hang of them. But, the gross evidence is that I went out to Dara’s to pick up Callum’s spare bike that he is lending me. Exhibit A – a scruffy old mountain bike. Ah, now it comes back to me…  I had decided that with no lights, no brakes and flat tyres that refused to succumb to my pumping skills, I had better take the S-Bahn back from Treptower Park. It went well for a bit, but then I got nabbed by the BVG man for having no bike ticket. I play the ignorant, monoglot, utterly ID-less British tourist – to great success, merely getting chucked off the train at Storkower Strasse and told in heavily-accented English to “buy a ticket for the bike”. Better than a fine – but I did have to then ride the damned thing all the way back from probably the longest possible distance from home that the Ringbahn route had taken me. I manage, nonetheless, in the total lack of any traffic, taking the cycle lanes, just following signs for Weissensee, getting overtaken by absolutely everyone else on a a bike.

Fast forward to Saturday (skeee…click…screeeeee…clunk), I got caught out by the shops shutting at 2pm and managed to get only a very cheap bike tool (the flat thing with hex holes), some lights, a pair of screwdrivers and cooking oil. So, Sunday, when I tackle the job, adding Kev’s pliers and adjustable spanner gets me all the tools I am going to get.

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Apparently, I can work miracles! Stops, goes, tyres pumped I now also have use of most of the gears. And mounted the extravagant €4.99 lights. And have pulled the ends off every single control cable that I touched… Oh well, just gotta hold those pliers tight! So, I took it for a spin round the park. Does the job. Slowly. Might do as a winter(snow!) bike or for dodgier spots. Came back to find a broom left out as a reminder to sweep up the bits and pieces (mainly bits of the green polystyrene cos the basket shredded it a bit). I duly did. I wonder which of my neighbours it was….

Later I wander up the road for coffee with Eva – plus a bit of a jam in her kitchen. Great to catchup, talk music, hear some of her stuff, and the practice session of 2 of my songs later emboldened me into actions….

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Evening at Artliners  open mic night. Sarah turns up later and talks productively to Chris the Aussie producer/studio owner. Also to me and Kev about someone who might want the scrap wood from the flat…

Kev got up with Tom to sing – Sunday Worship, Angels wings. We all join in. I did 2 of mine plus Sweet Child O Mine. Carlos, random guy who looks like a South Seas pirate, gives me a bit of freefrom lead support for a unique version. Nervy, but it’s odd to look and see myself reflected in the bar window, lit up, on stage, sitting playing acoustic, singing my own stuff.

“You made a good show” – that’s what I was told – is all I need to hear…

Militant Mass Poetry : If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep

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Selection of art from my travels. Some from Clash bar –  where I drank with Kev, Christian, Andy, Sofia etc. – and some Scandinavians – Suuomo (sp? Finnish… I spotted this!), Frederick (more of later), and his more chilled out mate (never caught his name). The small graffiti reads “If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep”. I want to steal it but it may already be a quote – I’m not terribly literary, and I dunno all songs ever.

So, Frederick was high on more Club Mate than I even I ever drink  (plus vodka), and cheerfully restless. Totally tattooed, piercings, split tongue – EACH BIT OF WHICH HE CAN CONTROL INDEPENDENTLY!! Very freaky-cool. But freaky. But cool. But… freaky…

For our further entertainment, Christian did his party trick of stuffing all of our available small change up his nose – but I failed to capture this insane feat on camera. Kev kidnapped my tablet to show us the band publicity pictures from his stint in the Berlin porno-rockers “Kamikaze Kings”, which actually officially make it onto the list of “The World’s Worst Band Promo Photos” (go check if you don’t believe me…). In these, he sports a mad gilded Beethoven-era beehive, which was all his own hair (he has twice the amount of hair *I* do!). Crazy. He almost skites off to Czech to dep for them on Saturday, but at the last minute, the promoter goes with a band who’ll play for free. Fucking typical, eh? I bow about around 2 ish, as it turns out about half a beer before Kev and Andy call it a day (but half a beer after Christian – so I guess I retain *some* cred…)

So, other pics – “Militant Mass Poetry” is local to me (my part-time-poet friend Sandy should definitely sign up for that), and the wonderful tile work is in the U-Bahn, on the way for a work-break-chat with Sarah out west in Wilmersdorf. Great to see her, looking less tired and enjoying a vegetarian lasagne. We shared a tiramisu in a proper Italian cafe run by Italians, just like the ones I recall from my Glasgow youth…

Berlin – Gimme, Gimme More.

Backlog

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I’d swear I wrote at least one other post whilst actually in Berlin – but it seems not, so now I am playing a long catchup. For some reason my phone didn’t properly notice it was in Germany until Saturday – certainly when I got off the plane, there were no friendly “Welcome to Germany – please let us shaft you on data rates under the guise of a bargain (but offer better rates for calling other EU countries than you get in when at home… [including DE->UK] ) “… so no data. I had call and texting ability, but no data. This prompted a visit to Aldi (because at least one chatty friend is on that and you can cheaply get flat-rate Aldi-Aldi calls) … and then to Lidl next door because my local Aldi in Weißensee was not selling phone starter packs or cards, which would be a problem given I don’t have a bank account to top up any other way. Hey ho, but it’s solved. 9c calls/texts, 500Mb for €6.95. Can top up another 500 for €4.99 when that runs out. I’m in Germany for a week then 2 weekends all within the same month, so it’s the first time it’s been worth it. That and that I am staying at the apartment and so have no Wi-fi (WLAN). Unless I can crack / phish the Spätkauf’s password…. but they tend to be horrible long codes due to draconic German liability laws – what happens on your internet connection is (apparently) *your* responsibility in a way that it isn’t in the UK (or Denmark, AFAIK).

Sooooo …. the German SIM is in the 7″ Fonepad, which needs to be carried about, which necessitates a visit to “Taschen Paradies” to get *just* the right bag (i.e. only just big enough). There was a spiffy silver corset shaped one in Woolworths – but it was a few mm too small! Hence the very Rock and Roll red one pictured above. The Fonepad has only a frontfacing “Selfie” camera, and it took me FAR too long to try doing a Wi-fi hotspot and tethering my normal UK phone /latop. So hence lack of posting. Speed over mobile data, by the way, at a nominal 7.2 Mb/s, is easily as fast as my UK broadband…. Hmmmmmm… unlimited mobile data is €14.99/month [but they throttle you back to 64 kb/s if you go over 500/day or 5Mb/month].

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The wonderful Kev has been on hols with the family (all over Austria/Croatia etc.) so there’s been no progress – but he very quickly amends that, getting on with rewiring the place, thus saving me (or any future tenants) from the very dodgy and total illegal old aluminium wiring. This angel also temporarily re-hooks up the hot water to the bathroom (last on the renovation list) so that I am now living in near- luxury. This will be further upgraded in a later installment….

Knob Mode Immediate

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Sorry that it’s been so long since I wrote. I’ve been busy, and busy with and amongst people, which not only takes up my time, but does so in a way that partly sates my need to communicate and express – and so I am less driven to write. That and bad discipline. And waking at 03:50 unable to sleep…. The candlelit bath was a pretty successful cure, actually. Relaxed all my tightened muscles and let me get back to a sleep state – for a few hours before work anyway…

Fairly usual round this week, barring no band on Monday (still work/hols). Other band Tuesday (Brian, the bass player, trying a new head/top cab since his got stolen from the back of his car). Trace Elliot, with that lurid green trim on both kit and covers. Too familiar from the living room in the Minions days – though it’s not exactly same head. Picked up the EP from my friends Nine Miles South, though it merely got added to the stack of CDs for my “People I Know” special folder on some device or other. I did have that partly done, but it was on the FIRST Kubik Evo only, and died with it (sadly).

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I got tempted by a bargain Boss GT-8 pedalboard, after spending some time failing to get the Joyo California pedal to make “my sound”. I thought it was quite good … Then I tied it back to back with Boss’s R-Fier sim … Er, no contest. At best, the Joyo is too fizzy and gets to sounding too artificial and “squared off”. It didn’t get on much with either the Fender at Guilfest or the Hayden at Stoughton Jam, so I guess that experiment in minimal kit when I don’t have my own amp didn’t work. I was actually after am ME-25, but they were fetching £60 on eBay – and this wasn’t much more, plus local pickup from close (ish) to work :-). The money has gone in a good cause too – the guys I picked it up from were selling on behalf of friends who are travelling, but getting low on funds.

I spent a while with the manual, thought I had a couple of patches sorted – but it keeps reverting the FX part of the chain to what it was before, so I guess I need to re-read and try again. Worth a learning curve, because it does bloody everything and is built like a brick shithouse. Plus, much juvenile hilarity from the writing style. “Knob Mode” *snigger*.

Also on the tech front, sent out my Dad’s setup Asus Fonepad 7” tablet with 3 Sim, a  nice case and a book “Android Tablets for Seniors”. Oddly, he’s maybe more at home with touch screens than keyboard/mouse – he’s an engineer, and before he retired, I think a some of the control panels for pumping gear etc. had gone touch screen. Well, we’ll see.

Replacement Sansa Clip Zip arrived [other one crashed as soon as any files were put on it], and I replaced the standard O/S with Rockbox within 15 mins. Faster (like NOT an EIGHT MINUTE BOOT TIME if it *thinks* you’ve changed the SD card – and it will think that if you joggl it too hard…), std m3u playlists, more info on the screen and best of all – can cope with 64Gb SDXC cards [now ordered].

Rock and Roll!

A Mini Adventure

 

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So, I was supposed to give Chris a vocal lesson … but under each other’s bad influence we (and Bertie the dog) decided instead to join The (Extended) Bedser Clan and various other muso types at The Big Fat Day of Rock at The Royal Oak, Bordon. The mere transport hassles of getting my bike to and then from the excellent bike shop in North Camp, and getting me plus some tools (needed for Sunday) and then to the venue were but a mere trifle compared to the need for a mini-adventure!

 

Everything I need packs into that one rucksack strapped to the back – plus a few spare bits like food supplies in the tiny rucksack that I wear. Tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, blanket, torch, change of undies, breakfast, lunch, snacks, water … big hardback rigging book, tools, gaffer tape… And, as I found in the side pocket of my tent, a ever-optimistic condom… I learned camping from an ex-Venture Scout, and it still shows – “Be Prepared!” What’s the other one? “Do Your Best”, well, given the chance…

 

I succumb early to a stonkingly good burger from the “Flaming Tucker” van, washed down with a huge and cheap (£1!) coffee. Really really top notch gourmet grub for £6!

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White Pigeon kick us off, with much good 80s style silliness, and there’s a mix of bands all day – all local, all originals – building up to Sons of Icarus’ headline set to finish the night with a right old rockout. The dancing girls were me, Dawn the landlady, the barmaids … and a young man called Andy [not a girl!], decked out in full 80s kit – leopard-print spandex, patched-up denim cutoff, cowboy boots. Love it! I was most amused and heartened to be told that I “still rock out like an 18 yr old” by a genuine member of that age cohort. However, unlike an 18-yr-old, I am not relying on “Dad’s Taxi” to get me home… 🙂 I’ve got my Tent Sweet Tent, and my (very necessary) earplugs as proof against my audibly amorous neighbours (the female half of which I’d been chatting to earlier in the day).

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Bottom right is John, the organiser of this excellent day out, playing with his band Vibracore. Bottom left proves that John wins at pedal boards.