Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cool movie

Monday, May 23, 2016

Health warnings required

As we wait today for the result of the election in Austria, to find out if a European nation will for the first time have a president from the nationalist far-right, I’m asking myself whether politicians should come with a ‘health warning’… a clear indication of their potential toxicity. How can one not see as a grave danger any elected official who enjoys the support of the insidious pan-European Identitarian Movement, unapologetic xenophobes reminding us surely of dark days in the twentieth century? ‘Ethnic cleansing’ anyone?

My questions are posed exactly a month before the voters in the United Kingdom (although not British expats resident in the EU) will be asked to decide for or against Brexit. How on earth is the electorate supposed to react to the hysterical claims, supported by highly questionable data, made by both ‘in’ and ‘out’ campaigners? Should there not be a ‘health warning’… an alert advising us that the politicians on both sides of the argument are leading us to the brink of a dangerous cliff? Frankly I can understand only one reason why an intelligent person might wish to leave the European Union, if sincerely of the opinion that the EU is itself an institution doomed in the medium or long term to implode. 

Update from The Guardian
"The Austrian interior ministry confirmed that after postal votes were counted, Hofer’s final score was 49.7%, against 50.3% for his rival Van der Bellen, a former Green party leader and the son of two wartime refugees."

Friday, May 20, 2016

I'm learning!

Reg Grundy, television producer and executive, born 4 August 1923, died 8 May 2016. Expanding from Australia to Europe he revived the Australian school-leavers’ soap The Restless Years (1977-82) as Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden (Good Times, Bad Times) in the Netherlands in 1990 and as Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten in Germany in 1992. Both are still running. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A grand lad

I think we were both surprised. I know I was delighted! My grand-nephew is eight months old and was in fine form yesterday.

His parents, Stu and Marie, flank Mickey and me with Sebastian where he belongs... bang in the middle of the photo shot by the server at Venezia. And what an adventure the little lad is having as the family takes a whole month for a spontaneous tour of Europe, hauling a caravan as they explore the continent. For Marie, Munich was a must, the rediscovery of a city where she, her mother and brother spent several happy months when she was just a wee lassie in the eighties. Sebastian... in his own time... will learn just how fast time flies. But I'm so grateful that time permitted me to meet my feisty grand-nephew for the first and hopefully not the last time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

6,000 episodes

My first day as producer of GZSZ was in June 1994, taking responsibility from episode 561 when the show was still produced in the Berlin Union Film studios at Tempelhof. And tonight the six thousandth episode will be broadcast by RTL! 

I am so happy to have been a very small part of something that turned out to be so very big.

It was satisfying back then to know that our team's storytelling was reaching an audience of six million viewers. Today I count myself lucky when one of my self-published novels is read by six bemused readers!

Sic transit... etc. etc.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I can see stuff!

Huis Clos
Jean-Paul Sartre’s play is a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity. It is the source of Sartre's especially famous quotation “Hell is other people”.  For two of my eight days in the clinic I was alone in the three-bed room, but the presence of ‘other people’ (predictably men of my own generation) was unaccustomed and disconcerting. It is fifteen years since any other person slept in the same room as I did… and that was when Jessi was visiting me at weekends, a very different proposition! It was inevitable that at least one of the old men would snore particularly loudly when I was just on the verge of falling asleep.

The days posed their own challenge… tuning out the chatter of my companions. The first pair were men who were very well informed about German current affairs. Their idea of conversation was the exchange of monologues recapitulating all that they had learned from their media of choice, typically echoing the viewpoint of the conservative mass circulation tabloid press. Not once did I hear either of them express any idea of their very own. I dare say that this mode of long-winded regurgitation of the positions formulated by others accounts for a lot of the noise in German pubs and taverns. My defence against this assault of redundant verbiage was to clamp firmly to my ears the headphones provided, giving me a choice of two radio programmes (of which more later).

After the blessed two days when I was on my own there came new insurgents to be dealt with. One was quite remarkable, with a voice like a foghorn, inclined to make sonic eruptions at random… oft monosyllabic, always loud and in a thick Bavarian dialect quite beyond my comprehension. To his credit, the man in the third bed did not encourage the stentorian klaxon, and the nurses were professionally tolerant of his thunderous outbursts which… I think… were meant to be understood as friendly.

Once Mickey visited just when I was undergoing my third operation. In my absence she confirmed to the occupants of the other two beds that… yes… I am notoriously ‘uncommunicative’ and… maybe… handicapped by being slightly hard of hearing and… clearly… a foreigner! Well done, Mickey! I think you charmed them both and their verdict that you looked young enough to be taken for my daughter, rather than my once spouse, was a compliment you fully deserved!

My experience of hospitalization is very limited. It was in 1961 that I was admitted to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, for emergency treatment following an accident on my Vespa. In those days wearing a helmet was not mandatory and I’m told that for quite a long time Pa was instructed to keep me from falling asleep, to keep me talking lest I fall into a coma! Fie on any who would assert that ever since that bump to my head I have been slightly odd. Anyway, my outcome was better that that of JFK who expired at Parkland two years later.

Ten years earlier I was an appendectomy patient at the Dundee Royal Infirmary. My memories of anaesthesia, therefore, date from the early 1950s! Hence I fully expected that at the Augenklinik Herzog Carl Friedrich I would be put to sleep with a mask covering my face, breathing is some kind of gas. Might I have to have my beard trimmed to ensure a proper fit? What about my dentures? Hah! Inhalation? So last century! The anaesthetic was intravenous, delivered by an infusion pump. I had no awareness of exactly when it took effect, not even the third time I was put under in spite of a conscientious effort to figure it out. All in all, a bit strange and disorienting but without any discomfort at all.

I had a further experience of the hospital milieu as recently as 1998, although it was in the fictional context of the soap opera Geliebte Schwestern. But the last week confirmed that pretty young nurses are a real-world phenomenon. On the screen for the year that the series was broadcast the white-coated Prof. Dr. Steinfeld was the kindly supervising medic. In the clinic on Nymphenburgerstrasse the white-coat was worn by the urbane Prof. Dr. Schönfeld who, in spite of working twelve-hour days, was invariably cheerful and encouraging. Had the names been any closer to identical I think I might have freaked out!

Water and other matters
The hospital patient is not surprised to find water available on the bedside table. I’d more or less expected a carafe and glass close at hand. But at the Augenklinik Herzog Carl Friedrich the crown-capped bottle resembling that of a half-litre of beer contained a sparkling table water from the Ducal Bavarian Tegernsee Brewery (founded in 1675). In fact the premium beer from the same source is one of my Munich favourites.

All of this I registered before my first operation on the day of my admission. Then at around five o’clock the first meal, a light supper, was served. Now it must be noted that I am an old codger who habitually feeds only once a day, early evening before my Kindle session, and that this repast consists almost invariably of spelt crackers, cheese and paté… all washed down with very modest Chateau Tetrapak white wine from Italy. The clinic suppers were always more varied, with assorted breads and cheeses plus healthy stuff like tomato and hard-boiled egg sections and pickles (items now to be added to my domestic shopping list).

More unusual for me was the rest of the food service. Breakfasts were copious with wonderfully fresh rolls. Lunch was always three courses, with soup and dessert and a main dish which was never less than delicious, first-class Bavarian bourgeois cuisine. All of this was such a huge contrast with my normal regime and gave me the odd feeling of being on an undeserved holiday, paid for by the health insurance provider with whom I had been enrolled (at no cost for the elderly impecunious) in the middle of last year. Little touches were appreciable; the cutlery was tucked into a serviette embellished with the crest of the clinic. 

Another surprise awaited me in the lounge area on my floor. I have possible read in too many British novels about hospital vending machines swallowing coins and spitting out barely palatable beverages. At the clinic there was proper German filter coffee available at no cost all afternoon.

The overall gastronomic experience came close to that which might have been provided by Etihad or Emirates Airlines… on an eight-day flight! The 'long haul' analogy is also apt in another context... for the duration the 'no smoking' sign would be illuminated. Now I have always confessed to being a pack-a-day smoker (at least) but while I was in the clinic if felt no craving for a cigarette at all. Very strange! 

Friday, April 22, 2016


It's more than just a piece of furniture, more than merely an item occupying space in my tiny Munich flat. And I've never actually regarded the blue armchair as my own property.

It only served its intended purpose for a short year more than a decade ago. When I lived and worked in Augsburg one of the joys was that young Jessi could make the half-hour train trip from Munich for weekend visits. Obviously there had to be somewhere for Jessi to snuggle while we watched Gilmore Girls and Dawson's Creek and our other favourite shows. Since I was anxious to avoid enriching Ikea one more time, I made my purchase in one of Augsburg's premium furniture stores and for a while Auld Da and his daughter were very content.

Then when I spent my seven years in the Sandlands the chair languished unused in storage. On my return in 2010 it again saw the light of day, but in a flat which, while adequate for a lone curmudgeonly pensioner, rarely hosts any visitor. The chair has mainly been used as a repository for discarded garments. 

Then at the end of last year Jessi settled in Berlin-Neukölln. And last weekend when she was briefly with us in Munich there was talk of moving the chair. Her loyal friend Tino waould be coming through town on is way back to Berlin with a van bif enough to carry it. And so it came to pass, Tino's muscle and that of Mickey adequate for the task, although in the lift it was a very tight fit, as the photo indicates!

And now?

I never imagined the blue armchair being so far away.