I am finishing this blog from Berlin as I’m here for Folsom weekend. Folsom in the States is a massive festival that happens annually in San Francisco and raises loads of money for charity. Every year there is a European version in the German capital. I’m not into fetish stuff but the historic streets of Berlin’s gay village are full of people having a great time wandering about in an amazing array of leather, rubber, high-vis, etc – think of Pride on steroids. It’s a fun celebration of diversity with people coming from all over the world and money raised for charity. Great tolerant reaction from the ‘normal’ Berliners. Albeit the Euro version is not as big as the American one and does not yet raise as much cash for good causes.
Flew out Thursday lunchtime on a very gay BA flight. Into Tegel, the ‘modern’ West Berlin airport, and then taxi to the Ibis hotel on Wittenbergplatz. Straight out to our favourite Italian restaurant near the big gay bar Prinzknecht. Things did not start officially until Friday evening but already there were plenty about and a nice buzz which even the intermittent showers could not dampen. We had to share a table with two American queens who, to be honest, were quite prissy. American gay men can either be fun, relaxed and insightful or a bit of a nightmare living up to strict stereotypes i.e. talking about very fixed types and sexual roles as well as being neurotic about what they eat. First night took it easy so back to the hotel bar for several glasses of wine and some great book reading.
A large part of Friday was spent in KaDeWe. It’s a stunning department store, like a cross between Selfridges, Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, and Harvey Nicholls all mixed together. I had a coffee and read my book whilst Dave spent ages wandering around. Up to Tiergarten, the wonderful huge park/woodland near the Reichstag, then back to the hotel for my afternoon disco nap. Out for a reasonably early meal at The Elephant, a German restaurant in the gay zone. Nice schnitzels then coffee in late night KaDeWe before back to our hotel. I went out to gay club Connection and rounded the night off with a fun trip to 24 hour party pub Bull. I was a little bit merry but in my hotel bed by 2.45am.
Saturday – woke around 8 and crawled down for breakfast then came back and fell asleep again until lunchtime. Sunny day so down to the street fair in my leather boots and trousers – their once a year wear basically. Nicely busy and we had lunch al fresco at our favourite Italian watching the world go by though again with slightly annoying Americans sharing our table and giving stereotype comments on people – ‘Oh he’s definitely a top, and that one must be a bottom’. (could have been the same ones from the previous night). Back to the hotel for a big session on my pooter making use of the hotel’s free wi-fi. Out around 9 and streets were still crowded. Indeed almost impossible to find somewhere to eat. Ended up at a slightly dingy Italian. Then around the scene, including Woof (bear bar), for a few drinks but nothing too excessive, bed by 12.30am.
A bloody good Monday because I did something different
So obviously Berlin was the key event of last week but I also had a bloody brilliant day last Monday; why was that? Because I decided to have a day of doing stuff I don’t normally do. Did the laundry with mum and then walked down to Hammersmith (where I rarely go though key parts of my childhood were spent there) to look round charity shops and the library picking up several books. Then onto Notting Hill to exchange books I have read at the ever wonderful Comic & Book Exchange. Got some new books and a couple of DVDs. Evening in with mum watching soaps though that was nothing new for a Monday night.
Digital and work
One of the mixed blessings of digital is that it enables us to work remotely and on the previous Sunday afternoon I did work stuff to keep up with the latest load of grants assessments that need processing. It’s getting very busy as our open grants fund closes on 1st Oct.
Working in the office last week on Tuesday & Wednesday. On both days much time was spent around looking at learning to date on our Tech for Good pilot programme and planning for the digital exploration day on 21st Sept around Financial Inclusion of Vulnerable People. And I attended a shortlisting meeting to recommend the next batch of grant applications to go to stage 2 plus saw to some staff supervision. I was also diverted into writing up the self-evaluation element of my annual appraisal, a task I neither enjoy nor find rewarding as I prefer to approach the assessment of my personal development on a regular and constant basis.
Attended the Digital Innovation Group at work on Thursday before my flight to Germany. An interesting selection including a new social media tool, a way of targeting marketing based on behaviour, and a means to capture public sentiment around a specific topic. Followed by a meeting about supporting our Tech for Good projects – we are still learning the levels and type of support needed.
Health & efficiency
Only one gym session last week – the previous Sunday and it went well. Weighed self on Tuesday, 13-5 so stayed same. Only a couple of long purposeful walks: Sunday – Victoria to Oxford Circus and back but super walk on Monday – Olympia to Hammersmith and back followed by Notting Hill to Olympia. Obviously walking around Berlin as well. Left achilles was hurting a bit on Saturday, think I might have aggravated it at my big night out on Friday.
A few sessions on DuoLingo but I was mainly concentrating doing German to fit in with my trip to the German capital. I do have a problem that when I am away I always assume it is Spain because I go there so often and so I need to remind myself to speak German not Spanish. Everyone in Berlin speaks English and inevitably work out that is my main language even when I try to speak Deutsch. However, amazing that when you are in another country the bits of the language dormant in your brain are re-awoken and you can start connecting up words across different languages.
One of the key reasons I like travelling and going on holiday is because of the opportunity it gives me to read. And I love the period building up to going away when I need to decide which books to take. Some books read in London last week and some in Berlin:
Naoki Higashida ‘The Reason I Jump’ (2013) One of main attractions was the introduction by David Mitchell, not the brilliant comedian but an author I adore. And this book was similar to his ghost-like writings. It is written by a young Japanese man and puts forward the questions often asked about autistic people then answers them. Good because it lets one into the thought patterns of an autistic person which would appear to be very much about a memory & thinking system based on randomised parts rather than being normal linear. It rang bells with me as I used to work with woman who had an autistic child and she often had to bring him into work. He was the same as any adolescent boy but with greater difficulties in communicating and being understood.
‘Makers’ by John Anderson (2013) is pretty much an analysis of the ‘maker’ movement; that is the ability of digital to allow people to make bespoke objects on a small or even individual scale. The movement’s evangelists, and Anderson is one, talk abou a new industrial revolution and an end to mass production. It’s the philosophy behind the hackspaces / maker spaces / fab labs / impact hubs that are arising and the type of digital exploration centre I am trying to nurture in Stoke with the Wavemaker team there. I don’t know if I totally buy the author’s enthusiasm; there seems to be a limit to what can be made (usually plastic knick-knacks) and we have a vast number of consumers sold on cheap, one-use products such as clothing. I also think it is as important to get people coding and building things on the internet such as websites and apps before worrying about 3D printers.
My final book last week was ‘The Long Utopia’ by the brilliant duo Sir Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. Just published and I picked it up at my local library. It is the fourth book in the Long Earth saga. It is so sad that Terry has died as I just feel this series is getting into its stride like his brilliant Discworld novels. OK there are some weak points such as delving into people’s pasts and creating a messiah like figure but you can also see the complexities being created in the scheme of these books and future glimpses of stories that could arise. Be very interesting to see where it goes without him, if anywhere.