It is not so much about what a place is like but how one feels at a place. In many respects, life in Berlin is better and yet, I miss the intensity of London. The difference in feeling is that where Berlin is by all means interesting – London was a muse. Berlin doesn’t make me suffer as London did – but nothing compares with working behind those windows stating Dream the Dream offering a view to the mad nightlife of Chinatown and Soho.
These are times to rest and recover, it seems, not to be tested, not be challenged, not to be turned upside down.
I don’t quite understand where time has gone. Old year, new year. London, Berlin. This year, I am turning fourty and although there is no reason to get nervous I don’t know how it could happen that just a moment ago, my life was all starting and now, has reached its mature middle (when I am lucky). When I was a child my grandfather once complained how short life was and being so young feeling time so vastly streched, I couldn’t find this remark anything but ridiculous. But now, every year gets shorter.
Life may get easier growing older; one benefits from experience. However, an aspect I can’t get used to is all these things passing by just to never return. And while remembering them, you even seem to lose your present.
Last night I returned from Dresden to Berlin on a two hours bus ride. While watching the sunset after a thunderstorm, I was listening to Beth Gibbons’ Tom the Model which took me back to a sad night when I was waiting on Oxford Street for bus 98 to go home to Willesden Green, listening to the same song in infinite loop. Of all places I lived in London, the one in Willesden Green was the shabbiest one, shared with a gentle guy from South Africa who carried around this relaxed sunny beach feeling and his miserable, misanthropic friend with eyes that indicated that he would have better kept in a mental hospital. The house could only be accessed from the backside via a path that came close a refuse dump. After heavy rainfalls, a giant puddle arose in front of the door; usually it was of such depth that accessing the house became basically impossible unless a friendly person had put pieces of surrounded rubbish in the water on which one could jump from one to the next. The next door neighbours led an illegal brothel and it could happen that its punters helped you getting through the puddle. – And yet, while listening to Tom the Model, I realized how much London was a genuine home to me. There is a deep wound the city caused by not allowing me to stay and settle. This is what I will never forgive London: that, instead of welcoming me, it rejected me.
When I was a child there was a popular fairy tale film “Das kalte Herz” (“Heart of Stone”) which was set in the Black Forest. However, because I grew up in East Germany, I had never heard of a Black Forest and hence, thought it must be some sort of fairy tale forest and certainly not a real place. – Now, thinking about London it quite feels the same. In Berlin, one is surrounded by images of London – on large advertising panels in the streets or on buses, in TV documentations, in magazines. I still remember exactly what these places feel like; I easily see myself passing by the places shown. And yet, while looking at them wistfully, they don’t seem to be real places but from a world far away behind an iron curtain.
It is strange to think that life in London will carry on without me. As if there was a double universe in which I could be too – but while everything and everyone else is still here, instead of me, there is an empty bubble.
Sometimes, there is this longing for England in me. For something English I have never touched. It’s a phantasy of a cottage with a big armchair by a fireplace in a small room with old books and wallpaper by William Morris, and a neat kitchen with two black-and-white cats, and a rosebush by the door and a garden where soon you would find the first snowdrops. And then I am thinking that snowdrops may be the only flowers I shall see this year in England and by the time the gardens are in flower, I might have left.
This is Kentish Town. This is where I live. Just to the left is Kentish Town tube station; the only station I know which has been decorated with artificial cactuses inside giving it an awkward-cute touch. Next to the station is a shelter with seats underneath on which you usually find people sitting without obvious reason, killing their time, staring into nowhere. At night semi-dodgy blokes hang around whenever there is a gig in the nearby HMV Forum, crying out the name of the band playing, trying to sell tickets. Opposite is a haberdashery shop, a wonderful shop with corners and niches in which you can find all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable little things if only you are interested in needlework; one of those shops that miraculously survives the fact that hardly any article costs more than a few pennies or pounds and few people come to buy. – There is absolutely nothing special about Kentish Town High Road, except perhaps that it leads down to Camden which enjoys the youth from around the world attracted by hundreds of shops selling clothes in alternative style. So at least, Kentish Town is spared hordes of excited, noisy teenagers looking out for cool London…
Why London? / It’s not your home / Why London? / Just a war zone. Eskobar: Why London
I grew up in a high-rise building, in one of a group of three almost identical fifteen-floor buildings, all covered in blue and white tiles. It would have been nothing more than a place of people’s normal domestic lives if it hadn’t been for a certain notorious incident. The building I grew up in was called the suicide house. Actually, there was just one case a man used the building’s height to take his life, but this case was claimed to have triggered a chain reaction in the whole neighbourhood and indeed, hurling yourself off a high-rise building became for a while a somehow popular suicide method.
Zeittotschläger laufen um ihr Leben / bevor die Schulbank sie kriegt / und ihnen alles wegnimmt / Zeittotschläger laufen um ihr Leben / irgendwann hält Gott seine Arme auf / bis hierhin und nicht weiter / Wissen tut weh, Gott nicht / und ’33 war Adolf Hitler Gottes Sohn / Falsche Richtung! / Falsche Richtung! Blumfeld: Zeittotschläger