Despite the best efforts of Talixo and Schönefeld airport, I made it back to England only vaguely on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It’s my third week back in God’s own country, and I am already desperate to get away. This might be due to the fact I live in the middle of nowhere, or simply because after a year of living alone, returning to the family home was always going to be a stressful experience. Luckily, I am writing this post whilst on the train to Edinburgh where I’ll be spending a week working at the Guardian International Television Festival.
The week leading up to my departure was characteristically stressful, filled with ironing out bureaucratic nightmares, cancelling a gym membership that proved harder to get out of than the mafia, and of course, saying goodbye to the host of brilliant friends I’ve made this year. I’ve never been one for goodbyes- I advocate the French exit wherever possible- but apparently when you spend a year of your life with people, it’s just not acceptable to sneak off at the end of it.
There aren’t an awful lot of life lessons I can share, particularly since I extolled much of my ‘Erasmus Student Wisdom’ in a previous post, which was cathartic but perhaps made the actual act of leaving a little anti-climatic. I’d also been meticulously planning my departure for weeks, so when the big day came it was really just a case of getting in a taxi and swanning through the airport like it was all second nature to a globe-trotting bright young thing like me. Truth be told it didn’t really hit me that I was actually living until I was (finally) in the taxi to the airport, staring out of the window on an overcast Berlin morning, and I had to have a stealthy cry behind my strategically-placed sunglasses.
Our last night out in Berlin was at the first club that actually accepted us. We queued for forty-five minutes and spent the whole time wondering if we’d get in, so really little had changed. It was a warm night that turned into a blisteringly hot morning, and by ten am we were sprawled out on deckchairs in the club’s garden (Take that, Wire and Warehouse!) and even then it didn’t feel like the end. It felt like second nature.
The fateful last three days were spent in a variety of ways. First came the departure of Walt and Jesse, who left Berlin on Monday morning in a transit van. Their road trip home came at considerable cost, but as I am a blossoming crazy cat lady, at least it will someday make a good story to tell my therapist. After they had left I began the horrible task of cleaning the flat from top to bottom, which took forever. I also realised that despite having three suitcases with a combined weight limit of 60 kilos, I had far too much stuff to take home, thus began a day where strangers turned up to claim all my unwanted crap, and I felt vaguely good about doing something useful with my discarded junk instead of being tempted to just throw it in the bin.
(I was still over the weight limit when I got to the airport, but for some reason, the lovely lady at the check-in desk didn’t charge me anything. Sometimes life just hands you a win. That, or she could tell I was having the morning from Hell and decided to take pity on me.)
I also repainted the wall where my cats had kindly scratched it, cleaned the bathroom and kitchen until I could see my face in various shiny surfaces, and studiously avoided thinking about my departure. On Tuesday there was a barbeque to attend, so naturally the rain began the second we pulled out the disposable grills. I did remark on more than one occasion that this is part and parcel of being British; so much as mention the B word and God will strike ye down with glorious floods. We did the British thing and just got drunk instead.
And I ended the year very much how I started it, sitting at 6am in the McDonalds near my house, slightly tipsy with three people who I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have met. They make me more interesting by association, and it’s never a bad thing to have friends like that.
Since returning to exile in Yorkshire I have little to report; I’ve been busy with my new job (night shifts are, as many might suspect, awful, even in the media) and just signed for my new flat in Leeds. I’m looking forward to returning, if only to see the posse of friends I’ve come back from Berlin with (who may disown me for referring to them as a posse).
This blog was intended to be a whimsical narrative about my adventures in a foreign land, and in all honesty I expected to fill it with slightly bitter barbs about being lonely in a city where everyone seems to belong (my natural predilection to pessimism is tragic, but often accurate) but for once, I’m happy to admit I was wrong.
From getting lost on the tram and ending up in Lichtenberg at two in the morning within days of arriving, to sitting in minus twelve cold and drunkenly translating ‘We Are The Champions’ into German, and of course, witnessing Germany win the World Cup in Berlin, this has been the most surreal, ridiculous, insane year of my life and I wouldn’t trade a single minute of it.
To those who made it what it was (and you know who you are) thank you for the ‘quiet drinks’ that ended at six in the morning, for letting me drag you to the cinema all the time (3 Days To Kill is all I have to say on that matter), for thinking my neuroticism was endearing (or just not letting me think otherwise), for the ballet and the ridiculously long club queues, for giving me the best birthday I’ve had in years, for dinner parties and deep conversations, for getting lost and finding something even better around the corner.
You collectively made an anxious girl from the backend of nowhere realise that life being scary is no reason not to live it.
Thanks for being bloody brilliant, Berlin, and the people that called her home, even for a little while.