Sunday, October 26, 2008

Book Mess

I was at the Frankfurt Book Exhibition last week courtesy of Pearson Education Germany, one of my translation clients.

In German it's called the Frankfurt Buchmesse (for the xenolinguistically-challenged among you: Buch = book and Messe = exhibition) which is why one of my more misguided English students described it to me as, ze biggest book mess in ze world!

I remember thinking at the time, 'you haven't seen my bookcases mate!'

Anyhow, I went on behalf of my book - did I mention that I had written a book? Ah! There it is...

I was there about 6 or 7 years ago too when the book was just sheets of A4 stapled together and I thought I would try again now that it is such a lovely tome.

(What do you say to a book maker when he visits you?

Make yourself a tome!

The Buchmesse has got bloated since I was last there it seems. For example the catalogue I bought last time was a bit less than half an inch thick and this year's was split into two volumes which put together are about 2 inches thick. It also seems to have become more slick and impersonal.

It's still fascinating to stroll through hall after hall and marvel at the sheer immensity of the exhibition and the mountains of publications but wandering round hawking my work I felt a bit like an anachronistic peddler with a hand cart creaking through a swish concrete and glass shopping arcade.

Anyway, they'll be sorry... Harry Potter - where are you??

Fall Back

Now that my computer remembers for me I don't have the problem with clocks going back or forward any more - well, I don't have a problem remembering but I do have a problem adjusting. It's amazing how for a couple of weeks after one of these 'equinoctial' clock changes everything seems to be earlier or later that it "should be".

Maybe I rely on my inner clock more than most as I don't wear a watch or carry a timepiece and so I notice it more...

What??! You don't wear a watch?

No, haven't for years.

That is partly due to the fact that in deepest Bavaria the clocks on bus shelters, buildings, stations, etc. all actually work so I found I didn't need one and I hate wrist bands and chains and necklaces and rings and all that stuff so I did away with my misted-up Sekonda when it finally ticked its last and relied on my instinct (ok, plus all the aforementioned clocks too).

Anyway, spring forward, fall back was my method of remembering what happens when the clocks change. In spring you lose an hour whereas in autumn you gain an extra hour in bed, which would be great if I could actually sleep!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Off the Road Again

Back from the latest section of our German Tour! This time it was the states North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Würtemburg, and more precisely the cities Siegen, Düsseldorf and Mannheim which were provided with doses of the diddlies.

In brief:

Siegen: ugh

Düsseldorf: wow

Mannheim: erm, ugh

Little bit less brief:

Siegen: reminded me of the centres of those English cities which were "redeveloped" in the 60s and which consequently gave birth to the expression "concrete jungle". Apparently Hitler was made an honorary citizen of Siegen - although I don't suppose they had much choice. Fittingly, and tellingly, the city is twinned with Leeds!

Düsseldorf: bloody hell, really nice! There were elements which reminded me of Liverpool and others which reminded me of Thessaloniki! Mad night life in the Altstadt, which was still going on as we trooped back to our apartment at 4 am, and, despite the copious amounts of alcohol which seemed to have been consumed, all very peaceful and good-natured. I would definitely go back for a weekend for some proper research.

Mannheim: heavily bombed in the war and rebuilt on a doughnut-brain, American 'grid system'; giving rise to romantic street names such as K7 or A3. Maybe it's psychological but it seemed to me for this reason a sort of windy, soulless city - however I have to admit the people we met were very hospitable.

We got back on Sunday and I am still exhausted.

But at least I have another day before putting off my rock star head and putting on my author head to visit the Frankfurt Book Fair on Thursday and Friday.

Ah, and there was time, as we were driving in and out of the Altstadt in Düsseldorf lost, for me to get in another Sparwitz.

We had heard the news that the shares of Magners, the Irish cider company, had fallen dramatically.

"Oh yeah, I know what that's due to...", I said to the other 3 guys in the band who looked at me in astonishment, knowing my gossamer grasp of stock market ins and outs.

"Yes, indeed... that's a clear case of insider trading..."

....oh, COME ON ! ! !

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I am not obsessing about Koblenz but it is bugging me that I didn't remember that statue, which I have subsequently found out is of the emperor William I on his horse, as I mentioned in my last post.

There is something quite splendid about the fact that the Mosel to the right or top of the picture flows into the Rhine along the bottom and that the city grew from this.

I love rivers anyway. I grew up on the mouth of one , the Mersey. And I love the idea of them - that they just find their own way to the sea, either meandering quietly or gushing directly... or both!

I used to push Biddy along a little river, the Würm, near where I used to live in Munich and I couldn't get over the fact that we could have jumped into it and been slowly swept to the Black Sea, via the Isar and the Danube.

Anyway, I was talking to the barman in the place where we played on Friday night and he said that the statue had been destroyed in the war and not replaced until the 1980s, which would explain me not remembering it cos it wouldn't have been there in the 1970s when I was there last!


But, subsequent perusal of Wikipedia dashed my short-lived hopes. The statue was indeed destroyed by American bombs in the 2nd WW, but replaced in the 1950s... ho hum.

On the other hand what I did kearn from Wiki was how Koblenz got its name. It is a corrupt form of confluentes, the Latin for 'flowing together' which is what they called this place where the 2 great rivers meet.

You may, one day, look back and thank me for that information!

(... or you may not)

Friday, October 03, 2008

One is on Tour

So, I have now made it back to Deepest Bavaria after my brief trip to Liverpool. Actually, come to think of it, it's not deepest Bavaria at all as I am on tour this weekend with the Irish band I play in. One loses track sometimes when one is on tour, doesn't one?

We are playing two nights in Koblenz, up where the Mosel meets the Rhine.

We played last night and then went off to the 'Hotel Continental' to spend a superstar night. This hotel was quite amazing... located in a kind of time loop back in the 1950s-German-Democratic-Republic style. All the elements of the decor combined to say "cold war shabbiness".

One of the numbers missing from the door; mattresses with springs; sad, greying net curtains; a ceiling which looked more like a floor; a painting over the bed with a landscape from Venus; a breakfast room which invited you to commit immediate suicide...

But they were very friendly...

I walked along the Mosel before and came to the Deutsches Eck. Now I know that I was there at exactly the same point in 1978... I could even see the camping site where I stayed but I couldn't remember this:

I was expecting to see things I didn't remember but this was a little surprising.

Maybe they built it in the meantime...