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Kultur: Same procedure as last year? Absolutely not.

I have to admit I really wasn’t ready for your Berlin new year.

The first thing that had me foxed was this “guter rutch” that everyone was hurling at me. When I looked it up I learned that you all were hoping I’d slip over. Given the current blizzard conditions this was a very real possibility. The second shock was this Dinner For One thing.

You all know Miss Sophie and James only too well, so I won’t go on about it here. But, truthfully, this was a new one on me. Seriously, every year at New Years eve, you watch an old, black and white, comedy sketch featuring a second-rate actor who’s largely unknown in England and who disliked the Germans so much that he refused to allow a German version for his most adoring fans to be made? I felt I needed some cultural guidance on this one. Many people said to me it was really, really funny and that I had to see it on New Year’s Eve - it is simply part of being German.

So where should I watch it on the big day? I had a tip (thanks Ian) that a live performance was being staged at Brotfabrik [link]. This I had to see. A packed theatre valiantly tried to find the laughs in this re-staged show which sadly wasn’t a match for Freddie Frinton’s slapstick. How could it be? “Did you enjoy it?” I asked an elderly chap as he left the building. “Yes!” he enthused. Why? “History! The same procedure as every year!” he replied - somehow missing the fact that it wasn’t.

Anyway, you might be interested to know that Dinner For One, as far as I am aware, has never been broadcast on UK TV. You find it hilarious. We apparently don’t. Are we to be forever divided by humour? Can anyone explain why we’re so different on this one?

But it wasn’t your strange taste for this English eccentricity that most surprised me. It was your almost unhealthy obsession with pyrotechnics that quite literally blew me away. I should have guessed what was in store when I saw a woman get on the tram with a black rucksack stuffed with fireworks. She’d have been arrested as a suicide bombing terrorist like that on the London Underground.

By the Fernsehturm, just after midnight, when I nipped out to celebrate 2010, I thought I might not make it past January 1st. It was like Baghdad. I saw two guys lighting some rockets and bangers wearing protective googles. Fine for them, I thought, as an explosion to my left made me duck for cover while a rocket whizzed overhead. Clearly you didn’t have the public safety adverts we had in the UK like this one http://www.youtube.com/ or this one http://www.youtube.com/watch. They were grotesque and still kind of haunt me even now with their horrible pictures of disfigured limbs damaged by fireworks and a stern voice booming at the end something like “Don’t play with fire”.

Thanks for your tips, though, of what I should see to feel the pulse of Berlin. Do keep them coming (mark@espiner.com) and you can follow me on twitter too (@deutschmarkUK). So a happy 2010 to you all in the city that clearly needs no instructions on how to party - it’s certainly started off with a bang.

By Mark Espiner

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