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Coming to Berlin

I couldn't face using a picture of the Brandenburger Tor

I couldn’t face using a picture of the Brandenburger Tor

On the 11th of May, I left London, where I’ve lived since 1998, and came to Berlin, where I know no one and have no job or place to live. I don’t know when I’ll return. This may strike you as mystifying and stupid, or life-affirming and exciting, depending on your temperament and mood. My own temperament and mood are highly unstable, so I veer between the two.

I made the decision very quickly, by my standards. In March, it was a pipedream – one of many things that I could do and would notionally like to do, but which I comfortingly won’t ever do. A bit like my dream of becoming a carpenter and building my own house.

But on the ninth of April I woke up thinking it was the only viable option, and two days later I gave my month’s notice to leave my London flat. This isn’t really the sort of thing I do, so it shocked me. For two nights I couldn’t sleep. My whole body was flooded with alternating waves of fear and excitement. For about a week after that I was stunned: I mostly just sat about, staring into space and being surprised that I’d done something so disastrously bold.

Over-explaining my need to explain

I had a need to explain myself to people. At first I just talked to friends and family. But then it felt like such a big decision that I found myself explaining it to strangers too. There was a man who knocked on my door collecting for charity, and I told him more or less my whole life story, and how it had come to this. If you smiled at me just fractionally too long when selling me a sandwich in Pret, I would begin to explain that I’d had a long illness and what with insane London rents and having saved the money my book earned me, it was now or never…  Anyway, since I find I have a blog, it struck me that I may as well use it to get this need to explain out of my system.

I can see where the need to explain comes from: in November 2014 everything was finally going well. My book had a quietly spectacular year, I’d had perhaps my most profitable year of freelancing ever, I was in a comedy show that did pretty well at the Edinburgh Festival, and I was just about to move into my (long-overdue) first nice, grown-up flat in London. I felt like I’d finally prevailed against impossible odds and was no longer a total failure. But six months later I left it all behind to come to Germany.

The decision doesn’t really fit the script I had written for myself, and lots of people seemed a bit baffled by it. ‘Oh right,’ said one friend when I told him, ‘I’m assuming you’ve got mates out there.’

‘No,’ I said. ‘I don’t know anyone. That’s one of the things that makes it so stupid.’

The explanation’s quite long, so I’m going to put it in a separate post, to make it easier for you to avoid reading it. I might never get round to posting it at all. Perhaps it was just something I needed to write for myself. Or maybe, more plausibly, it was a successful strategy for avoiding writing the book that I’ve left London to finish.