A Comedy of Errors

Gather round, because I’m going to tell you a story. This story is exceptionally delicious; it has so many different layers to enjoy. It is a story that intrinsically tells so many other stories, stories of man’s folly and of art and of human behaviour and of municipal decision-making. Bear with me. From where I work it is a short walk to Potsdamer Platz, a strange, lifeless arena of enormous and heavily-architected office buildings and shopping centers. It was intended as a gleaming modern hub for the city where locals and tourists could come to work, eat, shop, and enjoy...

An early draft of my upcoming PhD thesis

Working Title: A Comparative Sociopolitical Analysis of Crisp (Potato Chip) Culture and Flavours in Germany and Great Britain Around Christmas I spent almost three weeks in the UK. Three weeks is a short time, and yet in that time I consumed more crisps than I usually do over the span of several calendar months, if not years. Brits love crisps more than we love our mums; we love crisps more than the royal family, more than complaining about traffic, more indeed than a really well-timed cup of tea. That last one was a joke OF COURSE THERE IS NOTHING WE...

An open letter to the people who designed the Android alarm app

Good afternoon. I say ‘Good afternoon’ because I get the sense that you lot are not the kind of people who are used to getting up early. Back in olden times, people used to use things like alarm clock radios or Teasmades or even those ones with the bells on top to make sure they would wake up early in the morning in time to get ready for work and feed the chickens, or whatever it was they needed to do which was counter to their innate biological instincts. But things have changed, and now almost everyone uses the alarm...

A central heating meter perched on a fire escape sign

The straw that broke the camel’s back

Look. You don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be here, but the problem is that there is still so much I have to tell you. In fact, for every thing I talk about a dozen new things happen that I also have to talk about and so there’s this enormous backlog now, you see. Like my pile of unsorted tax documents, I have been putting it off for so long, but recently I had a day where so many things – baffling, unbelievable things – happened in such a short space of time that it was frankly...

Phys-Dread

Recently, Boris Johnson – the wispy-haired cretin who tripped over a gollywog doll and fell into being Prime Minister of Great Britain – launched a bombastic ‘obesity crackdown’. There is so much wrong with the way he has done this. The fatphobic messaging which completely fails to engage with the reasons why people struggle so much with their weight. The emphasis on disincentivising the bad stuff and the simultaneous complete failure to effectively incentivise the good stuff. The cognitive dissonance of conflating ‘thin’ and ‘healthy’ to claim that these two words are one and the same. The guilt-tripping of overweight...

Paradise lost

It is a well-known fact that German allotments are an intense environment of competitive gated-community style policing of each other’s plots, enforced with glee by the leathery pensioners who own half of the gardens in the space. Vladimir Kaminer even wrote an entire book of humourous anecdotes about his time as an allotment owner. Either your tree is too close to the fence, or not close enough to the fence, or the square meterage of lawn is insufficient, or the quantity or quality of your barbeque smoke is unacceptable – there is, reputedly, nothing one can do to avoid that...

Escape

I am not a fiction writer. Believe me, I have tried; I have sat in cafes on Sunday afternoons, filling notebooks with pages of dross which I have later looked on and cringed hard enough to call it an abs workout. This is very distressing, as I dream of being the kind of person with a head full of wonderful novels, bursting with quirky and original characters and surprising plotlines. I would even settle for having a knack for short stories – heck, even erotic fanfic – but alas, it is not my gift. Which makes it especially hard to...

Heavy Metal Stress Relief

A 40-minute cycle northwards via Pankow, in the rain, and then a sharp right turn and a brief meander through a U-shaped courtyard. I stop outside a building which looks like a garage, with piles of scrap metal and a workbench with a huge vice attached outside. Also outside are a small clan of men, eyeing me with amused expressions on their faces. Two of them (I’m not joking) are wearing leather jackets and have greased-back hair, while the other two are (again, not joking) wearing lumberjack shirts and snapbacks while sporting solid beards. One of them looks like the...

Luxury Schmucks

The White Mountains; the shire-iest part of New Hampshire. As you begin to head north into the forest, the trees begin to glow brighter and brighter, improbable shades of lava orange and lemon yellow and neon pink. The road curves through the woods gracefully, like the stroke of a pen. Every so often you near a sign proclaiming “SCENIC VIEW” and you are forced to stop and marvel at yet another majestic natural diorama of exhaustingly intense colour. And after a while of rolling past the soft carpeted mounds of the presidential mountains, you turn a corner, and a vast...

Trash curtain

This week the city has been devoted to commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall exactly 30 years ago. Every time there is a big milestone like this, Berlin is packed with events and celebrations and people go a bit nuts for it. For the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, the city erected a line of eerie glowing white orbs along the entirety of the length of the wall from east to west. Every so often, as you travelled around the place, you would catch a glimpse of a stretch of this illuminated barrier; simply being there,...