I’d met Sam in a club a few years before, he’d recently turned Buddhist and had tried to get me to do chanting, but to no avail. After a cold night of whiskey macs, cuddling turned into snogging and groping and we became boyfriend and girlfriend. I grabbed at the chance of being with someone who I knew and trusted and there was no chance of him setting my room on fire because he didn’t smoke – and I missed Fraser, I needed the cuddles.
I was in a poor state physically and had been spending time in hospital outpatients at Neurology and at Moorfields eye hospital with what was diagnosed as optic neuritis, I couldn’t see out of one eye, and then the other, I wore a patch over the relevant eye and went to a fancy dress party as ‘Long John Silver’, hopping about with my walking stick, pissed. At my next appointment the Whittington Hospital diagnosed my symptoms as Multiple Sclerosis. It was at this point Sam succeeded in his quest to get me to attend Buddhist meditation and he took me to see a healer where we sat in silence for a donation.
Sam also got me onto a macrobiotic diet. The healer had told him it would cure my MS. I ate rice, seaweed and apples, drank whiskey and lost loads of weight I didn’t need to lose but was happy.
Two weeks of this relationship was spent staying at his sister’s flat in West Berlin, over Xmas and the New Year.
East Berlin was recovering from riots 6 months earlier where people had been killed after the Bowie gig . Over the wall East Berliners heard him singing ‘Heroes’. Sam and I tried to get into East Berlin via checkpoint Charlie ‘just for one day’ but the guards weren’t having any punk types crossing its boarders. The next day, with a flattened Mohican, wearing a headscarf, Sam’s sister’s trainers and a rain mac (Sam looking similar) we got into the East via the underground. I sought out a record shop, about the same size as ‘Our Price’ stores from home. I was hoping to buy something cool and East European but there were only racks and racks of records with a similar German looking musician poised at a piano or classical instrument. East Berlin was cold and depressing. We took a bus out of the city, it was dead. We saw no one, let alone punks. Everything looked the same, streets, flats, cars.
“Pass your test at 18, you have to wait till you’re 28 to get one of those.” Sam said pointing on the cars, he had been to the East before and was enjoying educating me. “You can’t get bananas here either” Not that I gave a shit about bananas, they weren’t part of the macrobiotic diet.
“I’m fucking freezing” The bus that dropped us off back into the centre of the city.
My legs were playing up, we’d done a lot of walking and they were cold and numb and my teeth were hurting from the minus zero temperatures. We walked into the shopping centre and I began to warm up. The restaurant was on the 5th floor, it was empty then couples began arriving, men in suits, women wearing sparkling jewels and fur coats. The menu was like an a la carte, posh, but I couldn’t read it. It was all posh, the cutlery, serviettes. The waiter poured water into crystal glasses, he didn’t talk, just served us a thin grey soup that looked like dish water. The next course was beautifully presented, sculptured vegetables, carrots like flowers but were soggy and tasteless like they’d come from an out of date tin. Alongside the carrot was red cabbage, a tiny slice of beetroot and what I think was a sardine. We handed over all our East Berlin Marks and headed for the last tube.
It was so fucking cold. Toothache now exceeded any discomfort from the MS symptoms and back in West Berlin I spent Xmas eve and Boxing Day in emergency dentists. The first ripped me off, filled a tooth that didn’t need filling, charged me £79. I know because the second one told me and sorted me out, for free.
“It’s gum disease,” he’d said. “You need to see someone in England when you get home”. Whiskey was ok for the macrobiotic diet so I drank a lot, swilling around my gums. I was depressed.
New Year Eve there were more riots at the Berlin wall, fire crackers, cars on fire, fighting, while we watched the UK Subs, Charlie Harper belting out ‘Warhead’
‘There’s a burning sun
And it sets in the western world
But it rises in the east
And pretty soon… ’
Sam and I’s relationship was like East Berlin. Dull and deprived. Back in England we agreed to stop our boyfriend/girlfriend relationship and go back to being friends. We’d hardly had sex, stopped snogging and I lapsed on the macrobiotic diet which couldn’t have pleased him. I was missing Fraser, his Scots accent, his cuddles and his building site stories of hanging supermarket doors too short or the wrong way round. I wished we could see each other – just for one day.