Matt is currently staying in a flat in Berlin which belongs to a musician friend of his who is on tour.
As there was a spare room, Matt had asked me if I wanted to stay there too.
It sounds like I was lucky I did not go. I got an e-mail:
“When I arrived here,” Matt told me, “I collected the keys from the neighbours, threw my bags into the hallway, then went out for the night to explore. I was kidnapped by two journalists from the Bild newspaper (the German equivalent of the Sun) who took me to various bars, ending up in a place where an exotic dancer performing onstage finished her act by sitting on a large bottle of Becks beer and opened it by bending over.
“When I got back to the flat at 2.40am, I realised I had been given the wrong set of keys. Well, the keys to the flat were fine, but I had not got one to the main door from the street. I had to spend the night in the doorway until somebody from the building left for work in the morning at 6.45am. I had trouble convincing him I was legitimately staying there. I do not speak much German and, in the intervening four hours, I had been sipping beer from a bottle and reading Morrissey’s autobiography so, by this point, was looking quite dishevelled.
“The next day,” Matt told me, “my card was cloned by some bastard in India who has plundered my current account of all its funds. And now I can smell gas coming from the flat below.”
“Well, gas and Germany tend to go together,” I told Matt when I Skyped him yesterday.
“The neighbours just said to ignore it and it has gone away,” he confirmed, then continued: “Listen. There’s an enema spa in Thailand I know very well. We should go one day next year. After the Edinburgh Fringe. Next September. You fast for ten days straight and take silium husk. I met Hermann Goering‘s niece there. You can have ten days of blogging with interesting characters talking about what they’ve passed that morning into a sieve. How can you resist?”
I told Matt I had put enemas behind me and was not interested.
Shortly after talking to Matt Roper, I got an e-mail from comedian Bob Slayer.
“Yesterday,” it started, “I found an artificial leg in a park in Stockholm… There were signs of a struggle and half a broken step ladder. What can this all mean?”
I could not help Bob with any sensible explanation.
“This morning,” the e-mail coninued, “I was woken up in a closed shopping centre (also in Stockholm) by a security guard called Linus. Neither of us knew how I had got into the closed shopping centre and he complimented me on my sleeping place but – sadly – he told me that he had not seen my artificial leg… So that is now lost again.
“It would be lovely if you could blog about my new book Bob Slayer: The Happy Drunk. I have written it and Rich Rose has illustrated it. The pre-order via Kickstarter closes on Sunday.” (This means tomorrow to rapid readers of this blog.)
Bob’s Kickstarter target was £666 and, at the time of writing, he has raised £1,008, so I think it is likely the book may well appear.
Later, I got another message from Bob.
“I get a ferry to Aland for a gig,” it started. “Aland is an island between Sweden and Finland which is Finnish but they speak Swedish. The two countries argued over it for years and sorted things out with a treaty that made Swedish the main language and gave the island a high degree of autonomy. The first thing they did was get rid of all tax on booze. I love this place. It is a schizophrenic island full of piss heads…
“I have been to Aland several times before with bands. My gig is promoted by a man called Grulle. When I was managing the Japanese rock band Electric Eel Shock, we once took Grulle to the Hultsfred Festival. When we picked him up, all he was carrying was a bucket. It turned out to be his portable toilet complete with a seat. Grulle spent some very happy moments with his potty in the woods that weekend.”
Even later yesterday, I got a text message on my phone from Bob who, bizarrely, is a former racehorse jockey.
“I have met an old man called Björn on the bus to the ferry,” the text said. “He was a race horse trainer but, more importantly, he has wine and vodka. An important feature is that the booze is in bottles of vitamin water.”
I have heard nothing from Bob since.
When I told Anna Smith – this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – that Bob Slayer was in Stockholm, she unexpectedly suggested I should immediately tell him that Sweden now allows public masturbation.
Sure enough, Time magazine and the UK’s Independent newspaper have both reported that a 65-year-old Swedish man was acquitted of sexual assault after “pleasuring himself” on a beach in Stockholm in June.
The district court of Södertörn tossed out the charge on the grounds that he did not look at anybody while fondling himself. Public prosecutor Olof Vrethammar told the Mitti newspaper that he had no plans to appeal and called the ruling “reasonable.” When asked if masturbating in public was now acceptable in Sweden, Vrethammar said public fondling was “okay” – as long as it was not directed towards a specific individual.”
“The coffee shop is opposite the British Columbia Supreme Court. I wonder if it will come in handy for criminals who are about to be sentenced to lengthy terms or ones who have just won their cases and need to convert currency or pay off people. I have noticed that men about to be incarcerated sometimes have absurd amounts of cash in their motel rooms.”
Anna has other things on her mind, too:
“I have started part time work in a used book store,” she tells me. “The place is always good for a laugh. The owners grumble about business, customers come in to rant and the elderly men are funny, trying to outdo one another with anecdotes. One elderly Indian man was crowing from the top of a ladder: I was there when Khrushchev stepped off the train in Bombay! to which another geezer, who is blind and too unsteady to climb ladders but sings filthy doggerel, replied: My mother was an Irish nurse who marched with Mao across China!
“Directly opposite the bookstore is the Marble Arch Hotel, full of mentally-ill drug addicts, who used to fire projectiles at the store windows from their rooms. Fortunately, the City of Vancouver is renovating the hotel, so the whole building is enveloped in scaffolding and blue nets, making it temporarily impossible to shoot ball bearings. In better days, the hotel had a striptease club which featured such famous performers as La Cicciolina, the popular Hungarian-born Italian politician.
“I recently went to a Celebration of Life for Fijian princess and actress Freda Perry, which was held at a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A banquet including extremely delicious curried lamb was served, Fijians sang prayers and there was a Kava ceremony, though I missed that bit.
“When I saw the Kava bowl I thought it was holy water, so I steered clear and was a little surprised when I saw a man scoop a mug of liquid out and drink it. Fijians are obviously a superior culture as their holy water is drinkable, and mildly intoxicating, whereas our European holy water functions mainly as a transmitter of influenza.
“Big news at the moment, though, is that Vancouver Police are being run ragged in their hunt for rogue dentists who are operating with impunity in secretive subterranean clinics.”
Sure enough, a piece in yesterday’s Globe and Mail newspaper reports that “British Columbia’s College of Dental Surgeons says there’s still no sign of rogue dentist David Wu, though it is proceeding with legal action against two other unlicensed practitioners and investigating even more… Illegal dental clinics tend to be underground and secretive, which the college has said makes them difficult to shut down.”
Vancouver continues to be high on my list of interesting places to be, although Matt Roper continues in his (frankly doomed) attempts to persuade me of the attractions of enema spas in Thailand.