Every now and then, my job takes me away from home for a week at a time. They put me up in fine hotels and pay for my food and drink. It sounds terribly glamorous and like I’m getting a bit full of myself. Trust me, it’s nothing to shout about. But, it would seem like a perfectly good subject to write home about – or blog. So here we go.
This time, I’m in Berlin. A city filled with many things that are symbols of the futility etc of war, though everyone seems to go out of their way to ever mention it. Contractual obligations forbid me naming the meeting, but suffice it to say, it is technical in nature and attracts the sort of people usually to be found lurking behind an open server panel. Yep, home of the geeks.
I’ll be blogging as often as time permits, usually early morning when I’m half awake, so forgive the sentence structure and lack of salient thought.
I slept like a rock, unfortunately a rock rolling down a very steep hill – in a very warm room. The airco taunted me, ‘your room is 26 degrees,’ it laughed, ‘now try turning it down and I’ll make it even warmer.’ I eventually tried opening the window. As I’m on the third floor, it’s partially welded shut, allowing half an inch of fresh air. Enough to let in the full effect of the main road below my window. So not only was I hot and sticky, but every time I was in danger of nodding off, I’d be awoken by a police siren or a bunch of Irish girls on a hen night, singing their way home.
Today is a busy day, we’ll see how I cope. But let’s go back a few steps and talk about my journey here. I’m just about over the trauma, though not sure I’ll ever feel clean again.
Of course, I didn’t get my requested seat near the power point, in fact I was as far away from it as it was possible to get. I’ve come to expect this though, so no biggie. I need not have worried though, for entertainment was on hand in the shape of two new-agey German types who shared my cabin. At first, I took them to be two average everyday Joes, no outward signs of fuckwittery, no wind chimes, no scent of patchouli oil, nothing. But within seconds, she had her shoes off and was sitting cross-legged on the seat chanting. I put my iPOD on and flicked through HEAT. Next time I looked up, he had his shirt half way up his back and she was giving him a back massage. He let out moans I can only describe as sensual,
I paused the music and listened as she ‘whispered’ sweet nuthens into his ears. It was probably her accent and the fact I’d already taken agin them, but it sounded like she was suggesting they combine their powers and annex Poland..
The massage over, they continued to fondle each other, eventually breaking open lunch and feeding each other strawberries until we reached Hilversum (only the first stop, only twenty minutes along, it felt like an age), when a cheery Dutch family joined us and put paid to their shenanigans.
Today, I’ve stuffed my face with a selection of fresh fruit and toast in preparation for the morning where I’ve schmoozed the crowd with the best of them, bagging myself two meeting virgins and interrogating them about what they thought of the meeting. One of them slinked away and hid behind a coat stand.
Lunch today was a massive step up from the crud in undermined sauce offered for our last overseas meeting in Tallinn. I bagged another ‘newbie’ and made him talk to me throughout the meal. He eventually made an excuse about needing to make phone calls. Tonight we’re off to the Zoo to look at Hippos and sip sparkling wine … more later.
It’s official, I like Hippos. I don’t care if they’re one of the grumpiest and scariest creatures on earth, prone to maul and play with their prey rather than outright kill it – then again don’t cats do that with mice/birds/spiders? And you never hear of them getting such bad press.
Went to a drinks reception at the local zoo where feeding time in the Hippo enclosure was the highlight. Now I know on paper (or screen) this probably isn’t setting anyone on fire, but you had to be there. Good food, lots of beer, entertaining lumbering beasts with halitosis and dreadful table manners (and that was just the people, ba-da-boom). On from there to another ‘welcome reception’ and then a probably ill-thought-out few drinks in the hotel bar – staying there until the lights came on and we were ushered off into the night. ‘You’ve got work tomorrow, off you go,‘ said the solitary barman sent to shoo us away. There was talk of finding somewhere else to drink. Thankfully my survival instincts kicked in and autopilot put me to bed.
So that was last night, this is today. Plus ca change. More of the same and probably not what anyone wants to read about, so let’s get to the more interesting stuff. Lunch. Tried sitting at a big round table with geeks to chat – or ‘mingle’ as we in the trade call it. They refused to talk to me or my colleague and huddled in closer, whispering things about parallel networks (see boys, I could hear!). Food was uninspiring, tending to look far better than it tasted. But me and colleague agreed on one thing, the apple juice was nice. Well two actually if you count the fact that geek boys don’t do talking to girls or gays very well.
Skipped the big party on the 20th floor of an office block with dancing until 2am, as I know my self control is shocking and I’d have been there until the bitter end. I’m up on the microphone today for an hour or two, so I’d rather be in good nick. Fell asleep at eleven without even catching up on Eastenders. Will Pat live? Now I’ll not know for a night or two. I’m putting money on her wobbling back to this mortal coil though. (note for people with a life, Eastenders is a UK soap opera).
Today’s general whine, the room is still too hot and I’m getting ticked off with the constant tapping at the door to turn down my bed/service my mini bar/offer me fresh towels (what do they imagine I’m doing in here with them?). Woke up today with skin like the Singing Detective thanks to the air co, that seems unable to cool the room, but make a top notch job of sucking every droplet of moisture from the air. OK, I’m done, more soon.
I’m up and moving, had an early breakfast, not a single delegate in sight. Two Americans in software vendor baseball caps being v. annoying though. Chatting to everyone in loud voices, trying to engage clearly disinterested cooking staff in banter. Think one of them told him to fuck off in German with a grin on face to hide what she was saying. I like her, she’s my favourite staff member. I wonder if they do one of those shitty ‘help us select the best employee’ schemes here?
So Wednesday came and went, a busy day all round, then it was time for the evening social. BBQ and Cocktails. Both of which were entirely great. Though the BBQ failed to feel authentic, because although all of the people cooking were men – with women scurrying around doing all the hard work – there wasn’t a piece of blood-oozing undercooked chicken to be found and no sausages dropped on the floor. I snuck off just after nine (and three big fruity cocktails) to have a bath and early night.
This bath thing is becoming a bit of a compulsion. Not having one at home, whenever I get away to a place with one, it’s hard to get me out. I’m aiming at four or five a day, which I know would have my mother throwing her hands up in horror and muttering nonsense about washing all of the oils out of my skin or something.
Slept like a baby, having realised it’s the rubber sheets on the beds that are causing me the most discomfort. It’s a five fucking star hotel, why are there rubber sheets? I was given a tip to put a duvet under me and one over me, then create a nest of pillows. It works, Susannah Gray is officially my hero.
It was another day of talking technical with people who most likely thought I knew what they were on about, but I suppose my last lunch at the Hotel Palace is of far more interest to you, dear reader. All I know is that there was salmon, lots of it. I possibly overloaded on it and am helping keep some small fishery in business single-handed. Considering that a year or two ago I used to give it a wide birth after overdosing in my youth, I probably ought to calm it for a while.
The day dragged on, I did some shopping and noted that German men have far less inhibitions when it comes to trying on clothes. I spotted several just whipping their shirts off and trying stuff on in the middle of stores. In some cases, this wasn’t wise, but in others – well, you can’t help but look, now can you?
The evening came and the infamous RIPE Dinner, about which, I can say very little. Mainly on the grounds I was banjoed on champagne and decent white wine – I suspect salmon was consumed in much quantity (it’s just soooo Berlin) and I have the horrible feeling there was dancing. Never wise considering I look like a weeble when dragged onto any dance floor. Given I had a broken toe which is now black and blue, I think it happened.
and home on Friday, not a minute too soon, to sleep, sleep, sleep. Until the next time.
Oh and I think I shared the train with someone big in Dutch showbiz – 60 years old, skin like badly crumpled orange leather, sixteen year old nymphet on his shoulder, barely able to spell her own name. He kept gurning at people as they got on in that ‘you know who I am, don’t you?’ way. Sadly though, ‘Big in Dutch Showbiz’ doesn’t cut it with me. He kept trying to watch Lily Savage over my shoulder on my laptop.