25 years ago this week I was in East Berlin, studying Publishing. The term was over or nearly over and it was a warm, dry summer’s week. I had spent the year living in a student hostel, newly purpose-built, sharing a flat with two other girls from my hometown. It was the end of the first year away from home for all of us and what a year we’d had. It really didn’t matter that Berlin was a divided city – the East was big enough for us.
I’d spent a lot of time on my own, I always do that. I’d met musicians – I always do that too. I dated a guy from my college for a month, he got me into classic rock. We split up and I spent a lot of time with his best friend. We all had fun and I wasn’t bullied like in school. I felt different from other people, more analytical, slightly more depressive, really far more interested in and confused by relationships. I looked at how people only managed to have fun when drunk and hated it even then.
I’d read about Berlin’s history and went on long walks, deep in thought – once I got too close to the ‘antifascist protection boundary’ (the Wall) and didn’t have ID on me so got to spend a night in a cell, until people from my hostel came and bailed me out. All par for the course I guess.
So this week in June 88, the German Democratic Republic was on its way out, even though we could never have guessed it would end the way it did. To appease the youth, the government had put on a big ‘peace week of the Berlin youth’ and invited international musicians we normally would never get to see. Bruce Springsteen was a biggie – we all knew his songs even though we didn’t understand a word of English. I didn’t go to that gig, I went the other two days and saw the Wailers (Bob Marley was gone by then), James Brown and – Marillion. With Fish. They split a few years after that.
I randomly found videos from that gig (thanks Facebook) and wonder how I managed to forget about it, it was actually brilliant. And it brought up memories. I have written about how the year after – I joined the Hare Krishnas in 1989, right after the wall came down – messed with my head and emotions and general psyche. It seems I am now taking it back to what happened before, where I was, how it was that there was such a fertile ground for this religious nonsense.
I think it was very easy for them. I felt different and disconnected, I was really frustrated with being looked up and down and judged by useless guys EVERY DAY, but none of this was in any way out of the ordinary. If I had tried a little bit harder I could have found a group of people to spend time with – I already had, but it didn’t seem enough. So when the cult people came and said ‘you feel different because you’ve been CHOSEN, you’re spiritual, you understand that you’re not this body, and you just have to join us and purify your mind by following all these rules and regulations in order to be really happy as a servant of god because that’s your true identity’ it seemed to make sense.
It was scary how quickly I got sucked in, believed in the food being spiritual because it had been offered to Krishna, believed that if I found a guru I would progress faster, believed that this was the only true thing in the world, stopped caring for my mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Believed that nothing else matters than following this path. I invited friends to the temple and preached to them, I went home to my mum and preached my newly found absolute truth to her. I stopped associating with anyone who wasn’t a Hare Krishna. My family were concerned. I became a nun for the next 5 years and then married a guy I didn’t know who had shown up from nowhere, who unsurprisingly turned out to be a liar and a dick. Brilliant, well done me.
Finding the Marillion videos brought back the me before all this and I actually quite like that person. I now am doing things I should have done back then, 25 years ago, and I don’t care if I’m 42, I am happy with myself.
So, thanks Fish.