*It’s a dark, blustery evening. You lie in bed, but you cannot sleep. The only thing that will do, you decide, is a bedtime story from your favourite grandfather. You creep downstairs, your teddy grasped tight in your little palm. You enter my office timidly, and find me an old man, reclined in a rich leather armchair by a roaring fire, spectacles perched on the end of my nose. I am quietly perusing a large, ornate copy of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. I glance up with a start as you close the door behind you.*
Oh, hello my sweet grandchild! Didn’t hear you come in. It’s that time already, is it? Time for another story, ey? Well, you scamp, come hither and rest your arse upon my knee, and I will thrill you with tales of my youth in Berlin. Today’s story is set way back in 2017, on the 2nd of January.
T’was a cold winter’s morn. I woke up in the bed that I had barely got out of for the previous 24 hours. The New Year’s Eve hangover had just subsided. What’s a hangover, you ask? Well now, youngling, don’t trouble your curly golden locks about that. It’s essentially guilt and shame mixed with intense dehydration and nausea. You’ll experience it myriad in your own lifetime, I’m sure, for you are my grandchild, and my blood flows in your veins. Now then, I had planned to meet some friends of mine that afternoon, to do some urban exploring. Urban exploring is a fancy term we give to what is basically breaking and entering.
I found Dave, Vic and Reece at Warschaur, where we had all agreed to meet. Despite the fact that in 2017 mobile communication was readily available, due to a mixture of poverty and ineptitude, not one of us had a working phone, and so we were reduced to setting times and locations and hoping everyone showed up. I purchased a monthly U Bahn ticket from the kiosk at the station, which cost (cover your ears, youngling) 81 bastard fucking quid (it’s safe now, my child), but at least it means I can now ride the tube without constant fear of being dragged off and beaten by those (cover them once more for me, sweetling) fucking BVG ticket inspector goon thug gorilla-brained hateful no-conscience loathsome pig shit arseholes (grandfather has finished using his bad words now, sweetheart).
Reece was only visiting Berlin for a few days, and so we took him to gaze upon the Berlin Wall. We walked along it in the freezing winds and laughed at the tourists craning for photos, despite the fact that we did exactly that only a few months ago. My, how we had grown! Dave purchased us a beer each before we headed off on our adventure, which went down a treat at 1pm on a Monday afternoon in a public space. We got the U Bahn from good old Schlesischses Tor, and were whisked away across the city to find an abandoned swimming pool.
I myself had already visited the swimming pool back in the summer of 2016 with my friend Michelle, and thought it would be jolly good fun to show my Berlin gang. Can three people really be called a gang, you ask? Ha ha! Why, I should box your ears you cheeky child, ha ha! Seriously though, if you interrupt me again you’ll be smacked and sent to bed.
Now where was I? Ah yes, we disembarked the U Bahn on the outskirts of Neukolln, which is a district in the south of Berlin which has a lot of yummy mummies walking around with prams. Milfs, you might say. Or should that be milves? Regardless, the four of us navigated to the pool, stopping for more beers from a shop on the way, because it seemed like an important addition at the time. We eventually found the pool, and approached it through the main entrance, which passes a still-in-use hotel and car park. As we were nearing the old building, a white van man drove past slowly and eyeballed us. Dave spoke to him, and the white van man warned us not to go into the pool, because it was private. Dave assured him that we simply wanted to look at the outside of the building, and then we would be on our way. And lo, with his clever tongue and trustworthy demeanour, our hero Dave managed to trick the foolish Pool Guardian into driving away to do whatever white van men do, things like eating bacon sandwiches and talking about (cover your ears) tits.
The pool’s exterior was different to when I last visited. The main bridge leading into the depths of the complex had now been destroyed, and with it our only hope of entry. But soft! Although a metal fence surrounded the entire building, there was a flaw in its design that we could exploit, if we used all our cunning: someone had forgotten to close it! Huzzah! We slithered inside the perimeter fence, and beheld the monstrous ruin that stood solemn and silent before us.
Every window was shattered and burnt out, ash and debris littered every square inch of floor, vague and/or misinformed political slogans were spray painted on every wall, bizarre items lay strewn around with no satisfactory explanation as to how they could have got there. A single ballet shoe? But how? Why? A thick instruction manual for an old cassette player? Who the devil has been in here? Did some one-legged ballerina suffer a grisly fate in this place, while trying to take a shortcut on her way home as she was laden with a heavy new music player she had acquired? These are the great mysteries of our time my child, make no mistake.
Reece and I shakily climbed into the building through a ground floor window, covered in rusty nails and broken glass. I got the seat of my trousers caught on an old screw when dismounting, and was suspended by my groin, dangling above the ground helplessly. I had already accidentally snapped my fly open on my jeans as I put them on that morning, leaving me with a gaping cock-hole in the front of them. If I wasn’t careful in freeing myself as I hung there, front wedgied to the most extreme degree, my quest would be over. Nobody wants to go urban exploring with a weeping young man wearing shredded trousers, dick peering apologetically out. Thankfully however, my jeans twanged free and I dropped to the ground, landing alert and ready, catlike; thirsty for adventure, and beer.
I now realise, my sweet grandchild, that in the last story segment I used both the words ‘dick’ and ‘cock hole’ without telling you to cover your ears. Blast. Please don’t tell your mother.
We headed deeper into the abandoned building, rogue electric wires hanging from the creaking ceiling, old bottles shattered across the floor; grit and rubble and dust did abound. Reece and I crept inside; already we had seemingly lost Dave and Victoria. We were soon reunited, however, when they emerged through the open door that stood not four metres away from where we had scrambled in through the window. Together, we traversed the strange world of the abandoned pool. Upstairs we sneaked, and at the top of the grand staircase, I gasped in abject horror! The pool I visited not 6 months before was now a charred ruin, the grand, towering ceilings had caved in, and all was ashes and blackened cinder beams.
Before (June 2016) and after (Jan 2017):
The pools were filled with rain water turned to green ice, freezing the debris in its place. We hopped across the various deck chairs, beams, and beer crates into the centre of the frozen lake, and lay a while on long dead sun loungers left to fade in the frozen wastes. We climbed the highest towers, windy and void of handrails, and we combed the blackened basements below, where Victoria did not dare to tread, because she is a massive (cover your ears once more for me, my most sweet and tender grandchild) fanny.
We found evidence that people had once lived below the shattered ruin of the pool; bedsheets and food cans and old clothes. What became of the poor fellows who once existed in the basement? We did not care to delve further to find out, lest the same fate befall ourselves. We wondered aloud as we traced our steps out of the dystopian maze, which of us would die first in a horror movie. Hollywood seems to favour this order: black person, slutty girl, jock, stoner, and the virgin girl survives. However, our quad did not neatly fit these characters, most notably with none of us being black, and so we could find no definitive order. I am of the opinion that I would die in the middle of a horror film, probably of a cause not remotely to do with the antagonist, something like sneaking off and eating some poisonous berries and silently dying of anaphylactic shock while Jason Voorhees stomps around the campsite shanking all the other teens.
Victorious, then, we left behind the spooky pool and made our way back to Kotbusser Tor to continue our exciting day out. We all needed to urgently use the toilet, and so buzzed into Come Backpackers once more. Despite not having stayed there for two months, they still warmly welcomed Dave and I. We sat at a table and ate Vietnamese noodles, drank beers, and smoke a lot of Dave’s hash out on the balcony with the hostel staff. After this Dave had a nap, and Reece and I trailed off on some conversation that Victoria couldn’t follow, her being the only reasonably sober one remaining. Victoria soon grew impatient with our inarticulate ramblings, and dragged Reece away to do something more interesting than sit in a sleepy hostel living area and not speak. Dave and I bought cookies, and I got the tube home, too baked to string two coherent thoughts together, which was not ideal because all my new flatmates were in the kitchen when I entered and spewed gibbering nonsense in their general direction.
Thus, after our epic quest to find the mystical lost pool of Neukolln, and our great victory in this endeavour, our team of adventurers were rent asunder by that most repugnant of evils, the bane of men and women great and small, the scourge of the centuries and the ruin of many a keen mind: tiredness. Our adventurous day, so promising at its dawn, was now prematurely ended, as we trudged home with hooded red eyes.
What’s that, my sweet grandchild? We were only tired because of the hash? How dare you? Do they teach you nothing in school? Get out, get out of here at once! To bed with you, you spoiled bloater of a child, and no more bedtime stories for a week, nay, a month!
*And with that, I cast you off from my knee and boot you out of the room, slinging your teddy after you. I slam the door and stride back to my armchair, muttering about the insolent youth of today. I reach into the pocket of my velvet dressing gown, and place a giant bong to my mouth. I light it while thoughtfully thumbing the pages of the Origin of Species, inside which I have hidden a copy of Playboy magazine. I settle into my comfy chair by the fire, and chuckle heartily to myself as I flick through the reams of barenaked ladies.*