Guten Morgen Berlin!

Jill of all trades: writer, illustrator, designer, editor, web designer, craft maniac

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,...

a dog wears a sign that says "I'm a dog and even I know this is fucked"

What we have done to them

Thousands of people didn’t go to work or college or school that day just to be there. Not just in Berlin but worldwide. They were taking a stand – striking not to teach their employers or teachers a lesson but rather to make it clear to the most powerful people in the world that regular schmoes aren’t going to shut up until something is done about the climate crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people disrupting the rhythm of the city to drum the message out with the sound of their feet. And then also me, who doesn’t work Fridays and...

Never get sick. It’s the only option.

The healthcare system in Berlin is, I feel, a little like the Wild West. Just as in the Wild West, there are certainly social and bureaucratic structures in place; everyone has a set role to fulfil, everyone knows their place and the whole macrocosm has a consistent rhythm. But also as in the Wild West, everything is a bit disorganised, generally everyone is a bit lawless, people’s cattle occasionally go missing, and you can’t stop groups of people from spontaneously launching into a bar brawl or a hoedown. Walking into a doctor’s practice is identical to the ‘walking into the...