Sunday 29 July 2007

The Quest for the Jug

I love living in Berlin, and one of my favourite things to do here is to go mooching around fleamarkets on Sunday morning. There is one near us, at John F Kennedy Platz in front of Rathaus Schöneberg. This is, incidentally, the place where Kennedy gave his 'ich bin ein Berliner' speech. I buy books there mostly, and have come across many a great read for a euro or fifty cents.

But today, Claudia and I were on a mission. Staying at a friend's house recently with two kids and two dogs, Claudia discovered that a large water jug had been broken by some two- or four-legged culprit. So we went hunting for a replacement.

We went first to the fleamarket at Fehrbellinerplatz. This is a very pleasant and popular market, adjoining a lovely café, and many of the sellers there are people who actually are trying to sell off stuff that's cluttering their home.

As we were on our way back from a walk with the dog around one of the lakes, Claudia and I were a bit peckish so we gave in to the temptation of bratwurst for me and leberkäse for Claudia.

There, we saw a few potential jugs. At one stall, Claudia spoke with a man about a jug he was selling for five euros. It was smaller than what we were looking for, and Claudia asked if he would be there next week as we might decide on buying it. The man said he might be but the jug would not - he would smash it at the end of the day as it wasn't worth the bother of repacking.

We soldiered on. Our next stop was a very large indoor and outdoor fleamarket over in the East at Trepower Park. The people there were obviously selling for a living - if a living could be made from such trade. We saw one potential replacement there for Claudia to think about, but for me I mostly enjoyed the atmosphere of the crowded place.

And this guy's wonderful stall!

From there we went on - in traffic with Berliners, who I believe are the unfriendliest drivers in the world - to a small funky fleamarket in Boxhagenerplatz at Friedrichshain.

This area of town has a lot of young people and the difference is very noticeable. We found nothing vaguely like what we sought. But the atmosphere was very pleasant.

We journeyed on through a grey and wet Berlin, finally getting to the Ostbahnhof and the fleamarket behind it.

This was also a pleasant area with a lot of interesting stalls - though again these would have mostly been people operating at some professional level. At this stage, we were seeing markets only in terms of water jugs and there was only one possible candidate.

Heading home, we decided to have a look around our local Rathaus Schöneberg fleamarket. It was already past 3pm, and so - particularly as it was a wet day - many people were wrapping up their wares and preparing to leave. The guy I buy my 50 cent books from was not there and probably hadn't bothered to show up as the day was so wet. There was no potential replacement there - though I was very taken by an old ornate milk can that Claudia didn't like.

Claudia's recce done (she will make her choice next week) we could have headed home. Instead we went back to Fehrbellinerplatz. There was a man there she wanted to ask about bringing a larger jug to his stall next week. And before we left, we had to do one more thing. We went to the guy with the five euro jug. It was still there and it was close to the time when the market would close and it would get smashed. We bought it and brought it home. How else could such a story end!

Here's our newly adopted jug sitting on our balcony. If you ever meet him, don't tell him he cost only five euro and was saved from being smashed because no one wanted to buy him.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Meet John Burgan

My wife and I travelled 700km in our car with two boys and two dogs to meet John and his wife Hassina for the weekend, and seeing them again was worth the trip. That must say something about them.

I met John through mutual friend Trish McAdam when I made my move to Berlin back in 2002 and we became pals. They had both been part of the Nipkow project. John is a documentary maker and his wife Hassina is an artist. John is now teaching documentary filmmaking at the European Film College in Ebeltoft in Denmark. Aside from hanging out with them (and witnessing John's skill as a grillmeister) we also had the chance to look around the school and were mightily impressed. It is a wonderful early breeding ground for film talent and getting the opportunity to be a student there is surely an enviable experience. Two cinemas! Their own sound-proof studio! Editing and sound facilities! Conference and study rooms! Wireless internet access in their café! All a filmmaker's heart could desire and then some!

We also visited the old town of Ebeltoft itself and Claudia and her son Noam and his friend Louis enjoyed ice cream on a rainy Sunday night.

In his work, John's themes are often about belonging and identity. As someone who loves the world of film, he is also one of the regular hosts of D-Word, a forum for documentary filmmakers. He is tireless and always approachable, and a major asset to the college.

The main thing for Claudia and I, however, was to catch up with two people who were becoming friends of ours before they were moving away from Berlin - here they are at a small get-together in our garden before they left.

We want to to keep the friendship going - which hopefully means getting back to them and Ebeltoft every now and then as well as having them back in Berlin when they can spare the time.

Wednesday 18 July 2007

Laptop Dancing

I'm addicted to my laptop. I own a Fujitsu Siemens Amilo widescreen, and I think it is my favourite possession. The marriage between it and the internet brings me so many hours of pleasure it annoys my wife. I'm sitting here listening to a downloaded Bob Dylan Theme Time Hour while I will get an alert if an email comes in and I can also check for links as I write this. Indeed, access to the web has altered how I write because now, once a question pops into my head I can instantly research it.

A favourite treat for me in summer is to sit out on our balcony listening to a downloaded BBC radio programme while I surf the web. Who needs television when you can have your own window on the world.

I store my music and my photos on my laptop. I have recently begun to store interviews on it. I watch dvds on it. If there were some way I could also eat from it I might never engage with the rest of the family.

Here it sits before me at my desk. I regularly change the desktop image at this website, though lately I have a favourite image that shakes off all other competition. I don't have a name for my laptop, which maybe shows that I am still somewhere this side of sanity. I don't pretend it has a personality and I don't speak to it. I also don't get angry with it - but then again it rarely lets me down.

unlike this guy's computer!

I don't travel with it as I used to - my trips away are too short and bringing a USB stick is the simple thing to do. But when I come home, first I kiss my wife and second I switch on my laptop to check my emails and what's new in the world...