maybe I’ll retire to Scotland…

20121031-154658.jpg

Well, this is exactly what I was afraid of. ‘MIGRANTS RUSH TO GET OUR JOBS’, indeed.

Had a very odd experience on the train from York to Durham yesterday, and it’s had me thinking ever since. There was a young man sat opposite my mother and me, and he had a series of long conversations with both his girlfriend and his mother on his mobile telephone.

To the latter he insisted that he hadn’t broken up with his love interest, but that she had decided that they needed to ‘…take a small break‘ from the relationship. When he spoke with the former, he pleaded with her that although he’d been a scoundrel, she was the best thing that ever happened to him and really ending things would be a setback he couldn’t fully accept.

His answer to the whole predicament was that they take that little break from the relationship that he’d mentioned to his mother. At least that’d buy him a bit of time until he figured out what might come next. To his way of thinking, this was the only rational solution.

Despite the fact that we could only hear half of the conversation, my mother and I decided afterwards that the young lady was having none of it and had finally wised up. He wasn’t handling defeat well, at all.

What does any of this have to do with those MIGRANTS taking our jobs? Well, at some point in the conversation, we indicated that we might be going to Scotland. He insisted that he loved it there, and that he’d always thought he might move to Scotland when he retires.

Afterwards, my mother was perplexed at what he thought retirement was going to look like. He was in his early 30s and quite freely admitted that he hadn’t been able to hold a job for more than a decade.

I suppose he’d be angry about those pesky MIGRANTS and their job stealing, but I guess he might need a job first before he can get bent out of shape about it having been stolen from him.

a visit to the The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment

 

look…ukuleles in the window!

There was a time when we were begging for an instalment from our London correspondent, but luckily that is behind us. After publishing his recent  piece on the London Olympics, he appears to have been bitten by the writing bug.

We here at the Lahikmajoe have been so wrapped up in our own idling lately that we hadn’t bothered to write anything here for the last few days. As a result, we’re very grateful to have received the next instalment from Our Man in Notting Hill. And may I reintroduce you to Nigel:

As the 205 flames of Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic Torch parted, sank and finally died, so did my heart and those of many Londoners around me. I for one shed a tear or two, and woe betide anyone who may have tried soothing me with platitudes in the vein of ‘all good things must come to an end’. For those people I harboured secret plans to make good use of the still dormant missiles strategically placed around London.

The morning after was as it sounds. London had a hangover, whether or not its constituent parts had been drinking. Even the sun refused to shine. So what better course of action to take than to do absolutely nothing? (editor’s note: we like where this is going).

There is an Art to doing absolutely nothing, its fundamental premise being that you actually have to do something which you can tell yourself isn’t doing anything at all. Even thinking about how you are going to do nothing is walking on thin ice as it prevents you from thinking that what you are thinking is absolutely nothing. Avoiding these paradoxes and conundrums is the entire reasoning behind the creation of a pastime known as idling.

mug of the snail

I fancy I hear a throng cry out that I am writing about idling ergo can not be idling as writing is clearly an action; but I beg them turn their mis-led souls and blinkered eyes to the words of Alfred Jarry, author of Ubu Roi, who quite rightly claimed that idling was ‘designed to upset the mundanity of being’ and transform it into ‘the eternal dream’. So actually I’m dreaming. And you can’t get more idle than that.

I may have been at a loss as to how to continue floating comfortably in a dream bubble were it not for the fact that an equally idle friend of mine had told me of the existence of the Mecca of idle pursuit – The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment – and that it lay practically on my doorstep. So I set off to Bayswater to find it (although with some trepidation, lest an aficionado of René Descartes’ philosophies be lying in wait there in order to leap upon me and prove that I was not dreaming at all).

I needn’t have troubled myself with the apparent reality of moving shadows as I couldn’t actually find the place. I was told it stands opposite The Westbourne Tavern in Westbourne Park Road and is number 81. Now London is notorious for making things up as it goes along, particularly when it comes to house numbering. Under normal circumstances, the numbers should go up or down depending on which way you are walking and be even on the one side and odd on the other. Not so with this road. There was no number 81. On either side. There was most certainly a number 80. And an 82. But 81 was obviously a figment of my friend’s imagination.

It seems to be a golden rule that you will only find something once you have given up looking. I had abandoned my search and was walking disconsolately homeward when the The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment suddenly appeared like something out of Alice In Wonderland.

Entrance of The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment

I stood on the threshold faced with a cross between a bookshop, a library and Ye Olde Tea Shoppe on the seafront of every coast town in England. Something about it reawakened the smells and aura of my old school and of childhood holidays simultaneously. One wall was lined with well stocked bookshelves, the other adorned with curiosities; the front an Edwardian full-length glass shop front and the rear a desk with a till and a tea-making table, replete with cake, standing before a sash window. Behind the till was an open door to the garden and stairs leading down to a dark and mysterious place. I wanted to ask what lay down there but was afraid of the possibility of mundanity encroaching upon my dream, so I headed instead for the tea table.

the tea table

As I crossed the wooden floor, partly covered by a thinning faux-Persian rug worthy of my former headmaster’s study (and his head, if the truth be told), an old rumple-suited man began to expatiate to his long grey beard, teapot and anyone else who may have chosen to listen upon the subject of rationality as it relates to the philosophy of economics and the improbability of the Impossibility Theorem. I thought it best to ignore him and concentrated on the delicious selection of teas displayed on a hand-written blackboard leaning against the tea table.

Our Man in Notting Hill peruses the merchandise

From a selection including Oolong, Pua Mai and Fresh Mint I chose a Himalayan Orange and sat at one of the oak fly-leaved tables to peruse the bookshelves. And what was the very first thing that caught my eye, sitting there amongst The Iliad, Will Self and Blood & Mistletoe? What other than Bertrand Russell’s In Praise Of Idleness?

At this point the rumpled man, who had become a low monotone soundtrack to the Academy, suddenly said very clearly;

Kenneth Arrow, of course. You are familiar with Kenneth Arrow?’ My tea arrived and I stood up at once and stepped towards the bookshelf, my mind searching furiously. Then it came to me.

Yes, I believe I heard him mentioned on the radio this morning,’ I replied, pointedly looking at the books, my revelation being that Kenneth Arrow was in fact the gay policeman who had stood as a candidate in the election for the Mayor of London.

I very much doubt that,’ he retorted and launched into a torrid invective of the man so torrential that my mind and ears automatically shut off, my hand instinctively reached for Bertrand Russell and I quickly turned to the lady behind the till brandishing the book and saying;

How can I resist this? I’d like to buy it if I may.’

And I would like to sell it to you,’ she replied, ‘ but I’m afraid the till’s broken. There’s always something broken here.’

As suddenly as they had been aimed at me the rumpled man’s attentions returned to his beard, teapot and whoever else was choosing to listen and he continued to ferociously pluck Kenneth Arrow feather by feather. (I have since discovered Arrow was the man who came up with the Impossibility Theorem. I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out why the old man insisted his theorem was improbable).

What was I to do now? Well, as a means to my idle ends I had brought a book along with me (I never leave home without one). A detective novel. An intelligently written detective novel, but a detective novel nonetheless. Now, having been deprived of the possibility of reading Russell, the obvious thing would have been to have made do with the exploits of a gumshoe, but instead of reaching for the novel I panicked. How could I be seen in the company of Ovid and Darwin’s Ghosts reading a mere detective novel? How trite is that?

The Lady of the Till

Before beads of sweat could form on my troubled brow I was mercifully saved by Joanna the Lady of The Till who must have noticed my disappointment, or panic, or both, for she said;

Why don’t you give me £10 and I’ll write a receipt and you can settle any difference there may be next time you’re in?

I fell in and out of love with her in the time it took for relief to wash over me and for me to dig out my wallet and fork over £10.

So I sat back down, sipped my Himalayan Orange tea and begun idly leafing through Russell’s pages. The old man finished his tea and tutorial, mumbled something about how the Idler Academy was always re-using its tea pigs and shuffled out. I was left to enjoy the fulfillment of the promise inscribed above a snail on the glass over the entrance, ‘Libertus per cultum’, and to conclude that idling was indeed the best way to beat the post Olympic blues.

interior of The Academy

still his attacking heart

20120620-124913.jpg

Dreaming of a German English final

When I first arrived in Germany, I’d already become fascinated by international football tournaments, such as the World Cup. What I didn’t yet understand was the rivalry between the English and the Germans.

Not only when it comes to football, but for a myriad of other reasons it’s one of the most intriguing relationships. One book on cultural differences I read went so far as to say that the countries have some issue in part because their citizens are so similar.

Point this out to an Englishman, and he’ll likely deny it till he’s red-faced. Often a sign that there’s some truth to such a thing.

Many of the Germans I know love to ridicule aspects of modern British society and the quality of the English football side in recent years has been one of the easiest things to poke fun at.

However, my introduction to this rivalry came at an earlier time when the English were, shall we say, more competitive. Let me just say as an aside that I’ve waited to write this until both teams made it to at least the second round of the tournament. England may or may not be punching above its weight, but things are looking relatively good for the Three Lions right now and I’m writing this while their prospects are still a bit rosy.

It was late summer of 2001 and my neighbour Achim knew I was interested in football. Because of that, he invited me over to watch the match. He was an older German, who has since retired and moved with his Canadian wife back to her country (where all their grandchildren live).

The sad part of the story is that it wasn’t entirely certain whether Achim would live through the evening. I’m not exaggerating. Not remotely.

England was visiting and playing here in Munich and the tension in the city was even obvious to a newcomer like myself. One of the most well-known traditional restaurants in the city centre had been the scene of rival fans throwing the litre glass beer mugs at one another. Just for pure animal excitement, this was quite an evening to be watching football in southern Germany.

Am not entirely sure anymore the order of who scored which goal, but it was evident before the break that England had the far superior team that evening. Suddenly Achim was telling me I needed to call an ambulance for him. Later I found out he’d had a mild heart attack while watching Germany’s atrocious defending.

You’d think this would’ve put me off football entirely, but instead I was only more intrigued. The truth was I wanted to know more of what this was about.

Here are some pieces I’ve recently written for the Munich Timesabout both the English and German sides in their campaign to win a European Championship. Firstly, there’s Three Lions roar back to beat Sweden and before that I wrote about the Germans playing the world’s most expensive footballer in Germany manages their way around Portugal

Like I’ve said before, I’m doing my best not to write about football here everyday. Each time one of these competitions rolls around, I desperately hope for a German English final. The likelihood of that is so slim (it might even be impossible due to how the semifinals are set up), but that doesn’t stop me from hoping. What a dream that’d be.

I’ll be over here dreaming.

(update: my friend Caroline sent me a very nice email with a link to a file that explains what one can do in just such a heart attack situation. It’s in German, but I know some of you speak/read German. Some of you want to understand German better. The rest of you? Well, if you’re coming here for English-language-only heart attack prevention, you’ve possibly made an error in judgement. Here it is:

HerzinfaktundSchlaganfallerkennen11

Don’t you feel better having learned all of that? Thank you Caroline. Incidentally, if you need an excellent massage and you’re anywhere near Munich, Caroline is quite a masseuse. Let me know, and I’ll put you in touch with her).