Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin
Showing posts with label Barbara Holland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barbara Holland. Show all posts

Saturday, 27 July 2013


Britta Hill

I am almost well again, though still a bit unusually silent. And when I speak, my voice gives Zarah Leander. 
I love the heat wave we have at the moment - today Berlin simmers in 34°C, tomorrow they predict 38°C. I can enjoy it because I don't have to leave the house (though I do). 
I slept for almost two days in fever, and then had to rest a while in bed, and thus had lots of time to look at my long white curtains of white Swiss muslin swaying in the soft breeze; the vine on the balcony behind them printing hushed grey patterns onto them - beautiful! And while I looked long and dreamily I found out the secret of the long, long summers I spent as a child. 
It was the bulk of time we had - time in which we hadn't much to do. Not much distraction, not much choice, time was very uniform, and so it stretched. 
In the book "Endangered Pleasures" Barbara Holland starts her essay "Spending the Summer" with: 

'I am the resident curator in a small but eloquent museum of the way people used to spend the summer up until, to pick a rough date, 1981.' (...) 'Exhibits include parts of a croquet set, a first-edition Scrabble, the hook in the porch ceiling that used to hold a swing, half-a-dozen decks of cards and a sack of poker chips, three badminton rackets, (...), the complete work of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, and Charles Schulz, (...) a tin box of dried-up watercolours (...) 
People, even friends and relations who once spent large chunks of their summer here, gaze around in awe. "We must have been bored to death, they say. "I can't believe we stayed here for weeks and weeks. I'd go crazy here in three days." 

Nowadays, Holland says, most people make weekend-trips, not long holidays. But: 

 "Weekending degrades the whole concept of summer. Weekends we can take in any season, summer needs time. (...)
Slow the pulse. Summer is cumulative and needs to pile up, attain a certain mass, at which point the days stop being days and melt together to become a place, a self-contained, motionless country wholly set apart from time and containing within its boundaries all summers past and future. "

She gives quite a few good reasons for the change - and I agree with her analysis that society demands that "now our small available free time should be spent in the most strenuous possible activity (...) We're not sloshing aimlessly around in the swimming pool just because it's cool and pleasant; we're swimming laps, counting as we turn."

I don't, these days. Don't watch TV, don't party, read a bit, take a nap, look at my veiled windows, listen to the birds, water my plants.