Friday 7 March 1863
Our arrival in Berlin sees us as close to confrontation as we have been thus far but fortunately our axes have been confiscated at the border. The U-bahn (Unterbahnhoff) is striking, just like Bateman’s U-hosen, and produces a similarly inordinate funk. While we have both luxuriated in three hours of sweat-soaked, stinking schlafe, it is only my colleague who has been shouted at by one, or possibly both, of the moustaches on wakening, simply for standing beside an out-of-repair toilet, attempting to focus on more soothing scenes outside. ‘Don’t go in there!’ was screamed at him, six or seven times, until even the birds and small animals abandoned his pastoral oil painting and sought vague cover amongst the impressionists. Understandable then that Bateman might rely on me, a previous visitor to the city (Baumwollgarn Konferenz 1859: King Cotton or Twisted Yarn?), to lead the way upon arrival. But without the nascent ‘mole’ trains I am lost and horse-drawns can take us only so far up so many blind alleys before we lose sight of what we’re doing. The scale of the city temporarily defeats us and we abandon the recommended Friedrichshain for any place that will have us, which proves to be a hostel on the cobbled streets of Prenzlauer Berg.
Often wondering what Bateman keeps in his sea-faring trunk, I am surprised to witness an all-too-live body extending itself into a fully-formed, nay glamorous being; one capable of calmly ordering a small bone china tasse of tea. It is Rosa, his friend from lyceum days, freshly arrived, and with my syrupy grog, gloopy head, and correspondence course from Walsall High, I soon find myself struggling to keep up within a sudden symposium of drinkers. But there is no cause for alarm, for while Batemen’s purple forehead vein throbs with the effort of appearing articulate, it slowly dawns on me both that Rosa is perfectly friendly, despite her fierce intelligence, and that DH and Larry Pekalowski’s arrival is by now imminent (with regular readers appreciating that analytical thinking is legendarily far from their chosen agendas).
Rosa is of Viking stock yet fortunately for us she was not forced into solitary refinement but instead attended an international school in London and over Roman round-breads and then ales in the basement of the White Rubbish bar, shares friends she met there, and their friends, with us here. However, there is something about Berlin that effortlessly mixes the raucous with the cerebral, the radical with the whimsical; the burping is Bohemian and soon Klaus is telling us how the next war in Afghanistan will be fought with clockwork ‘man machines’ (his area of study), Larry of his latest musical picture-making and DH of his controversial thesis-in-progress, It’s Only Cold When The Wind Blows. Ultimately there comes a time when the brain can take no more and, coincidentally, this arrives shortly after a few puffs on a herbal cigarette in a darkened corner of White Rubbish. There are kebabs, there is another club, there is a double bed to share with Bateman due to the assumptions, or wild humour, of the man without a moustache on reception.