Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Day


Dear You, 
it's really lovely in Berlin at the moment: the streets are empty and still (the weather turned from -6°C + snow en masse two days before to mild 8°C -  - so everybody is a bit languid). 
Christmas Eve is over - presents are unpacked, joy (and astonishment, sometimes) hold on, and on Christmas Day only the Hausfrau bustles around (now: take that with a grain of salt - quite a few men lend a helping hand  in the kitchen nowadays, though  not all of them as Naked Chefs. But my neighbour on the second floor, the artist, is: I cannot ignore him - and why should I, he looks gorgeous - doing a Jamie Oliver. All the year round. Despises curtains and dressing gowns). 
Ah - by the way: did I mention that finally I got those roller-blinds? And high time it was, with all those light shows in the windows over the street - funny to look at for five minutes, unnerving after an hour of 'blink!!!blink!!! flash!!!twinkle!!!' (At this time I always read Charlotte McLeod's "Rest You Merry" again,  with Professor Shandy pressed to decorate his house - and then he showers it with plastic reindeers, flashing lights and an amplifier blaring "All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" - and then escapes to sea...)
A week ago a craftsman had been here, to measure the very high windows, and when I asked him if he favoured a cup of coffee, he said: "Don't think me impolite - but: what sort of coffee?" "Nespresso". "Well - then I'm glad to accept." We sat on the sofa, and he gave me a lot of tips for the best doner kebab in Berlin - and the second best, quite near, when the row for the first would be too long - and named a very good Thai restaurant (imagine: just one street further afar! And so on). After a week came another craftsman with the roller-blinds and fixed them. When we sat with a cup of coffee on the sofa, he asked apologetically: "How long have you been waiting for the date to fix them?" "Well, I ordered them last week." "WHAT??? Other people wait six weeks, minimum." So I was - very - lucky :-) 
Now: the shops are closed, people are sated, the weather is bleak. 
If I wouldn't know what to do, I could just sit down and study how to use and prepare my new Kindle. 
But we have such a lot to do... for example: just look at the Christmas tree - the Kcandles - and enjoy it. 
Hope you had a beautiful Christmas too! 
Britta 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Dreams


Dear You,
TOO LONG!, you complained. Yes, I'm sorry: the last letter was TOO LONG... Mea culpa. 
And I cannot blame Facebook or Twitter or whatsoever that it reduced the human attention span (TOO quick you get TOO many of Tweets and posts and whatsoever). Imagine your name were Elizabeth von Arnim and you sat somewhere far away in a bare German landscape - you would have jubilated to get a long letter from me, but here? In Blogland? Thank you, but thank you very much. 
Yes: I changed my blog title again - I just wasn't happy with "Britta's Letters from Berlin". Looked for a better one. 
And remembered Son's question when I thought about buying a new car, (my - realistic - dream car is a newer Jag, the car above would demand too much to give up for it). He asked: "If not now, then when?"
To be honest, I was slightly offended at first. But he is absolutely right!
If I have a dream, or you have a dream (as I hope you have!) we should not wait a few decades until we try to fulfill it. They might take away our driver's license then :-)  So: the Jaguar will be bought in spring (though it will not be Morse's MK II, sorry). 
Ah: and I took my Greta Garbo-glasses off again (though I had a very good reason - on Facebook - to put them on, figuratively)  - and returned to use a photo of me, and my real name (though 'Hill' is the utterly correct translation). 
So - that's it (in a nutshell - more walnut than hazelnut, but it takes time to reform). 
Bear with me! 
Yours (snowbound)     Britta 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Lagerfeld's Photo Exhibition 'The Little Black Jacket'

Britta Hill
Dear You
The Little Black Dress, they say, fits in everywhere (until one summer day in East End you feel slightly overdressed); accentuates the personality of the woman and not of the dress (until someone says: "Oh, you have been there too?"); Black is so practical (until you pick the blonde hairs from it); Black becomes everybody (until someone says: "You look so pale today"). 
Black is beautiful. 
And now we have an exhibition in Berlin, 'The Little Black Jacket', an homage of Karl Lagerfeld to Coco Chanel, who in 1954 also invented the famous black Tweed-jacket. 
It shows brilliantly what fashion is about: while today the Jacket seems almost staid, back then it was daring: cut straight, without collar, rep on tweed - that was a breach of style (it was a time in which fashion rules were still strict and complicated - "no really elegant woman wears an alligator handbag after 5 p.m.", wrote Mme Dariaux even in 1964). 
Almost staidly - except one does something with it. And that works - it is proved by the 113 actors and models who Lagerfeld photographed in this jacket. You can wear it quite virtuously: 


  
but you can also boldly change it with a pair of scissors: 



What does Husband (an expert on exhibitions) say to the formal presentation? 


  
"Sorry - the hanging is unimaginative. It is more a display (as in shop windows) than an exhibition: by stringing together the exhibits these are not related. Exhibits which are put into the room and not only 'along a wall' create corporeity and thus press the spectator to search his own way and so make his own discoveries, instead of - as here - only pace off the given front." (Hans-Otto  Huegel) 
               Looking at the photos one notices that the gaze of the models, though often directed at the spectator, goes through him - it is a 'posing', the model very seldom makes contact with the spectator. (Here I remember a quote of Lagerfeld: "The girl is not selling her private life, but her image.") Most consequently we see this on the photo of Anna Wintour:



(Funny: three students at my side were discussing that a) they immediately had recognized who was in that photo, and b) regardless of how big a crowd there would be, they would be able to recognize - from behind! - the great Anna Wintour everywhereYou bet!) 
Anyhow: ordinary mortals have to bent down deeply if they want to decipher name and profession under the photos. 
Nothing more is given - you might see it as a flaw of the exhibition, but I think I can detect Karl's mocking smile about the 'avarage spectator' in it: as in luxury labels it stresses very subtly that 'one keeps to oneselves' - the connaisseur knows anyhow...  
And: "Package is everything". Choose the deepest subway-tunnel (as they did) - clad it in black, with a few very elegantly dressed body guards at the entrance (why? there hung only prints, not even real photographs) and with a few beautiful lights the 'rather dark' becomes instantly much more distinguished. 


Britta Huegel
  
Though Mme Dariaux wrote a word of warning in her charming book 'A Guide to Elegance': "A really elegant woman never wears black in the morning." 
Maybe that's why the exhibitions opens at 11 a.m. 



(until 14 December in Berlin, Eventlocation U3 Bahnhof&Tunnel, Potsdamer Platz 1)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Return of the Drama Queen

Dear You
Honestly, I had thought that she had disappeared some time ago - of course with a bang, not with a whimper. Oh no: no early retirement for my Drama Queen.
Yes, I'm speaking of my Alter Ego. (You might blot out 'alter').
Like all those old rockbands she gives a revival tour, promising it will be her last (you bet!).
I shall get wary when words rise in my mind like: "Awful! Catastrophe! Core melt accident!"
I heard them, last week, when I discovered that Google on Blogspot (which is the same) flatly refused to print even one more photo of mine. First I thought it only concerned "Britta's Happiness of the Day."
"Awful!", I thought, but then, being of a Pollyanna-nature, I tried to see the hand of the Tao in it (no later than that I should have become Very Wary). "You were thinking about giving it up already", I told myself with what sounded like my grown-up voice. "So what?"
Then I tried to load up a photo on Britta's Letters from Berlin: Red Card. Finish. ("It is so UNFAIR!", howled my Drama Queen, "they didn't even warn you!")
I sat down and wrote a post - here - and DQ dictated the title: "I NEED YOUR HELP!" (she seldom uses other than capital letters). An hour after posting it I had cooled down. I remembered that I am no longer 17. I thought of a quote from adorable Sophia Loren: "For me - and I think for many other women too - the 30th birthday was the most problematic. At this age Youth lies definitely behind you. You can do the most wonderful things, but never again somebody will say about you: "Yes, and yet she is still so young!" 
Oops! So I rushed to my computer and deleted my dramatic message. I told me with a stern parental voice that I can google on my own - and look up myself how to enter Picasa.
And I found two things I had completely overlooked in my dramatic haze:
1. no need to get excited about Google breaking my data protection. Or better: too late - from the moment I used blogger I had given my consent that they might surf through my hardware disk (HOWL!) and - though I still own the copyright - they might give my pictures to others, advertisement and so on.(Only FBI does need a search warrant - Google doesn't. And that is in their terms "irrevocable".).
2. and I had seen everything blurred: when I read that after using up your free 1GB, you have to buy the next 25 GB, I 'saw' that it will cost me about 25 Dollars a month ("NeverI already pay for my website!") - but looking closely there stood: it will cost a little bit over 2 Dollars per month - I think I can manage that :-)
       Drama Queen doesn't give up easily: "Think of the SCANDAL with the shop window mannequins!" (the newspaper wrote that they have now cameras inside to watch the customers). I thought about it - hope I look my best in their pics and wonder into which age-group they will assort me :-)
So DQ left, sulking. Not without giving me a beautiful poetic image (see: Drama Queen is very imaginative, full of ideas, a master of putting things into the spotlight, and of the art of timing - we had the last Sunday before Advent commemorating the dead). So she said:
"Might be a good metaphor for your death."
"WHAT?"
"Well: think of your life as a photo-blog like Happiness. Beautiful. And then, without a forewarning, God says: "You have used up your 1 Gigabyte." And you might howl as you like: Life is over."
She lowered her voice and whispered in the raunchy voice of Mae West:
"Hope you had a lot of  fun before!"

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

"Dreams in a Bottle"


Dear You,
when I went these days through the KaDeWe (our parallel world to Harrods - and much too near to our flat), I discovered at the beautiful counter of Shiseido an old acquaintance in a new outfit: they put the Shiseido icon "Eudermine" into a 'traditional' dress. "First launched in 1897" - though they changed the formula a bit over the years. 
Apart from Eudermine I still long for the then (! around 1980)  version of the perfume "Zen", in a  milky-black bottle of obscured glass. It disappeared from the European market, and I was deeply disappointed when they throw the new 'Zen' at the market here - not the real thing, a thousand miles away from the original. I love a few of Shiseido's products - but think their massage techniques much more important - I followed them always religiously with good results. 
But though I bought their Vintage Limited Edition of Eudermin -  for me is the other version of the flacon lovelier: clear, elegant and slim.  


A propos perfume: how do you keep it: do you tell others which brand you use? (I had a friend who kept it as an absolute secret). Do you use the same perfume for years, or do you change it? 
How do you find the one perfume you are happy with? Do you still remember your first perfume? 
I send you some lovely-scented greetings (well - ther WAS a time when I did just that -- a few drops on the stationery - heaven...) 

Britta 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Safe in Safes

Britta Huegel


Dear You
of course you were right in your last letter to hint that all these Chinese Teahouse columns and statues are gilded, and not pure gold. If they were, they wouldn't stand there for long - we have a big problem these months with thieves that come and brazenly steal copper wires or tracks of the S-Bahn - and then people stand at the underground station and freeze, waiting for the trains that will not come... 
I grinned at your remark about the political farce concerning the vast amounts of German gold that are stored in foreign countries: at least the Americans allowed the members of the German parliament to enter the vaults of the bank, but denied them their wish to look at it - and the Banque-de-France downright denied even the first step. 
Why is the Christian Democratic Union so distrustful? 109 million ounces of German gold, we are assured, lie safely, I repeat: safely! in the safes (sic) of America and France and Great Britain. Does it matter that the politicians are not allowed to see it? 
Hony soit qui mal y pense - and if you do, my dear, you may join the new public campain "Bring our gold back home!"
Come to think of it: maybe they already have. 
And put it secretly into a very safe place. :-) 


Britta Huegel

Sunday, 4 November 2012

'Earl Grey with a Mandarin'

Britta Huegel

Dear YOU, 
yes, admittedly: they were a bit over the top with their crush on chinoiserie, Frederick the Great and his court. But you can't deny there is a big element of surprise when you walk through the wonderful parks of Sanssoucis in Potsdam and suddenly you stand in front of the Chinese Teahouse: 

Britta Huegel


On the roof sits a big Chinese Mandarin with a parasol - both in pure gold! The golden figures of musicians and tea-drinkers in Chinese costumes are as the 18-century artists THOUGHT they might have looked (I was to polite to take pictures of the vast crowd of foreign guests from Asia, who took photos bowing often, I suspect to hide their supressed bouts of laughter...)
Inside you find a beautiful hall with little niches for a cozy tete à tete - or look at the artfully painted walls and ceilings:


And when you come home after a long hearty stroll through the vast old English park, with abundent red and gold colours of its own, and the crispness of the air has tired you out, and you climb into your bed and close your eyes, then, suddenly, you realize the genius of the architects: behind your closed lids you see the uplifting sparkle, the unearthly glitter and shining of this poetical bulwark against grey-bare November-tristesse:

Britta Huegel

They captured summer - the colours of sunshine and light - something to dream of in chilly ice-cold winter's days...

Britta Huegel