Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Stop the Fire Alarm on the Narrowboat - PLEASE! (Part 2)

Britta Huegel

Thank you for being so patient (in the meantime husband and I have done a wonderful four-days-trip to the Baltic Sea) - now our engineer has solved the fire-alarm problem: he simply removed the batteries.
Silence is golden... 
Though life on the canal is quite busy, sometimes: a lot of boats are moving up and down the canal: they have to - nowadays you are not allowed to stay longer than 14 days in a place.
Different canals have different energies - and different people. Our canal, Bradford-on-Avon towards Bath and then Devizes - and back - was the way to Enlightenment, populated by a lot of esoterics.

Britta Huegel

There were people who lived on their boats for years, boats with tourists, boats with cats, with single persons, couples, daughters with aged mothers, and if a crank had lost his crank, we helped.
We saw precious boats (designed to the proud owner's wishes, for 110 000 Pounds), we saw normal boats which, used, were offered for about 42 000 Pounds - but then,  if you keep your eyes open, you might even find a real steal:

Britta Huegel

What impressed me?

- the starry, starry night skies

- fog on evening meadows

Britta Huegel

- dew drops in the morning

- the changing 'typical' English scenery

- the friendliness of the English people

- the 16 locks of Devizes - but they are worth a post of their own

- and, of course, my best beloved Real English Ale:

Britta Huegel

And I learned: Sometimes a woman at work is deeply misunderstood: when I for the first time steered the boat, and warbled away this sweet Moomin-quote:
'Look out for sand banks,' shouted Hodgskin. 'I want to try one. To test the hinge-and-wheel construction' ,
the two fellows of my crew got the impression that I was not doing a scientific experiment but was a damsel in distress landing on a sand bank - well, well, well - A prophet has no honour in his own houseboat   country...
- BUT I have a lot of energy, and I will never forget the face (in a distance, about 22 m apart from me) of Captain Matti, who sung soft sweet tones at the bow of our boat, and his guitar gently wept ... and I still steered, and then I accelerated, and I DID IT MY WAY - I aroused them and rocked the boat. Till then Matti didn't know me well, so he had to learn that I "never ever do nothing nice and easy / I always do it nice and rough 

I hope he has recovered from his shock and will forgive me - and, most important - will take me again to the English canals! 

Friday, 4 October 2013

River Flows In You - the Trip on a Narrowboat (Part 1)

Britta Hügel

'My houseboat,' Hodgkins said. 
'Your what?' I asked. 
'Houseboat,' Hodgskin repeated. 'A house built aboard a boat. Or a boat built beneath a house. You live aboard. Nice and practical.' 
Tove Jansson, The Exploits of Moominpappa

Catch your dream of a houseboat trip on an English canal - and you'll drop out of time. 
Yes, I'm back, my friends, but not quite - still walking a little bit above the ripple of water and waves (and fine English Ale). 
Though a houseboat is not as contemplative as everybody predicts. 
I didn't write a line, I didn't draw even one picture, I didn't read anything. 
I just WAS. THERE. In the very moment. 
(You had to be - otherwise you would bump your head at the beam of the small entrance door, or trip over the kerb of the boat - and the water in the canal was looking not that inviting...) 
Now I'll give you a super-boat-trip-recipe: 

You need
- up to 10 people (best when some children are among them, for a while) 
- travel (Holly Go)lightly 
- bring a little bit of sunshine with you 
- though no driver's licence is needed (why should you? The narrowboat is only about 72 feet (= 22m) long, so who cares?) - it is good to have a person who has done it before - we all accepted our captain Matti - and in the best of all possible worlds he will - as he is - also be a connoisseur of beers - Real English Ale - fruity beers, spicy beers, soft beers, and wild beers (I'll come to that point later, Yours Truly announces with the Cheshire cat's grin on her face.) 
- You know you are among the chosen few if you have some excellent guitar players among you, a sweet ukelele, a spectacular drummer, a great saxophonist and some singers - solo singers and background singers, all are welcomed - THEN THE BOAT WILL ROCK!  
We had all we needed: a tiny kitchen, 

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

beds, two toilets and one shower (but let's keep quiet about the hair"blower", which got its "energy" from a car cigar jack...). Though I saw an alternative offer on the canal, 

Britta Huegel

I decided to go to a solid hairdresser in Devizes. 
- and we had pubs (which the French friends on the boat called in their charming French accent "pöb" (as the 'ö' in 'further') -- and for the rest of my life I will always be much more drawn into a 'pöb' than a 'pub'. 
All along the canal they invited us: open doors, fancyful decorated, and offering the widest variety of Real English Ale. 

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

- And the landscape: you sit and look at the meadows that slowly slide by your side, the cows look dreamily back, the swans and ducks follow your boat, and the boat people-neighbours are oh so friendly. 

Britta Huegel

But life isn't - as every Wayward Taoist knows - only milk and honey - it is Yin and Yang: meaning: locks and swing-bridges. 

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Locks are very, very hard work (as I learned on that day when we were only three people) - after 7 locks I and my knee knew what we had pushed (and please remember: I am the woman who in the fitness studio proudly pushes easily over 140 pounds on the leg press...) 
First you have to open the lock gates, klink, klink, klink, then the narrowboat enters (did I tell you that it is 22 meters long? A normal lock is 22m and 10 cm long - you just fit in). Then one has to close both sides of the lock gates again - the water rushes in (All windows and doors closed?!?) 

To prepare breakfast in the morning for ten people is a challenge - one of us even made "French toast" twice, joyously accompanied by the shrill F sharp major of the fire alarm.  

While you are anxiously waiting if  our maritim engineer (we really had one among us!) will find a way to stop that infernal alarm shreeks, I use this thrilling moment to take a little break - see you soon. 

To be continued. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Lewis Carroll's remark on My Luggage

When I told our son what I have packed into the two suitcases for the houseboat-trip, he sent me this (from Lewis Carrol: The Hunting of the Snark).

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Tao of Wishes

Brigitta Huegel

One of the books my dearest English friend, Stephen Russell, The Barefoot Doctor, has written is called: 'Manifesto. How to get what you want without trying.
Had I but thought about it a bit longer! 
But no - carelessly I told Husband that I would appreciate to live on a houseboat. Very much. (I had seen some nice exemplars like that above on the Spree). 
"You?", asked Husband. "On a boat? Living on a damp, narrow, moving boat?
I felt piqued. Said: "Pshaw - I have many undiscovered facets you don't know!"  
The Tao listened. And laughed. 
And so a few days ago I got a surprising offer. 
A friend - and friends of him - will make a trip on a narrowboat from Bradford-on-Avon to Bath, direction Bristol, and back again. 
From the "(2 x) Three Men in a Boat" two had resigned - so Husband and I were asked. He, deep in writing an essay on "Luxury", has no time - but I..? 
For a second I hesitated. Then, without batting an eyelid I stared into Husband's eyes (did I imagine that I saw deep laughter in them?) "Of course I go", I said. "Such a big chance!
Which it is. I hope that the weather will be fine. 
But not being THAT starry-eyed anymore, I bought a dream-shiny-fuchsia Max Mara-down-vest - beautiful,slim and snuggly warm under my Burberry-Jacket. Then I rummaged through my winter wardrobe and pulled out the long black woolen-silk wool-pants with frills around the ankle. 
Yes! I know chapter 3 of Tove Jansson's 'Comet in Moominland' by heart, headline:  'Which is how to manage crocodiles' .  
So: come what may: Be prepared! 

P.S. For those who don't  know Tove's book (which is a fault!): Moomin's mother unnerves the young adventurers before their trip to take wool-pants with them (that's how mothers are) - and later, when they have to fight off crocodiles in a water tunnel they throw the heavy wool-pants into the wide open claws of the crocodiles. Saved! 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Autumnal joys

To show you that I am a very practical person too! (The wasps already know it).
And I have a big (travel) surprise in store (well: for me it was). Will tell you soon.

I COULD have given this little post also the enticing title: "How to stay young" (together with the so-called plum-cake-diet it would assure me approximately 10.000 clicks on this blog :-)
See: I found a very simple way to stay young: forgetfulness. Without any doubt in my heart I honestly wrote in the post about 'Kitchen gardens and Dig for Victory gardens' that son was five years old when I wrote that post. That's true. Then I added: "I wrote this essay 14 years ago".
And I believed it when writing that, thinking: "14 years ago? Time flies!"
Next morning I had a strange feeling... 14 years ago? But - oh -- then son would be 19 years old now. But he isn't.
He is 29 by now.
Well: what is a decade for a woman like me? I will remember most of it - but forget to add it mechanically to my age... Give me the wonder-cake, please!

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Just got the wonderful email from Gay that she plays in this production in the Apollo Theatre in London's West End. The play is based on the novel by Mark Haddon.
I am so glad, and as shared joy is double joy I recommend it to those of you who are in or near London - I'm sure it will be worthwhile!

Friday, 6 September 2013

My ÜberIch (Superego)

Brigitta Huegel

This morning I was roused from sleep two times: first by our neighbour above (to be exact: 3.80m above me, yes, our ceilings are high - and yes: our floors are all parquet which makes a jolly sound when you buy yourself new shoes, as he seemingly did, and then hustle and bustle through the wide rooms - at 5 o'clock in the morning!!! Main destination, so it seemed: the corner above my bed). 
The second time - it was now 7 o'clock, very late for me, but I had to catch up on some sleep (see above) it was my strong ÜberIch that whispered into my ear. 
To be more exact: it gave me a lecture. 
"What were you thinking of when you wrote that last post in 'Gardening in High Heels'?" "Häh?" "Don't say 'häh' - a groomed German Lady says 'Wie bitte'?" "What??" 
My ÜberIch took a seat at my desk and changed its contours to look like my beloved German/English - teacher Frl. Dr. Mergel (you know her by now). 
"If you had given me that as an essay, I would have written "Beside the point!" under it - in red ink.
I rubbed my eyes. 
"Under the admittedly quite catching headline "Kitchen gardens and Dig forVictory gardens" - what do you think people will expect?" "Ehm... äh..." "Don't mumble - speak clearly!" "Well, I would think I get some information on kitchen and victory gardens." "Bravo! But what did you serve? Eh?" "I...äh...I..." "Don't stutter. You served a - to stranger's completely uninteresting little story - about what your 5-year old son said - instead of facts, quotes, thoughtfulness." "Sorry!" "Yes, you can say that. If you weren't adult (hahaha) now, I would give you an hour's detention." "Ouch"
We made a deal - because I wanted to have breakfast, and she wanted - I don't know... Hopefully go one storey up and teach our stamping neighbour a lesson - in form of his old  teacher. 
The deal is: I inform myself on Victory gardens. And tell you - as soon as I find time. 
"I heard you", she said ,while her wonderful cherry-red ladies costume and then her figure and face dissolved, "I heard you humming under your breath!" 
And then she sang. 
In French this time:

(...Mais le soleil se fit taquin
Me cribla de carton d'éculaire
Et fit lancer sur mon bouquin
Des lutins à barbe séculaire
Géométrie rassurez-vous
Je serai fin prêt pour septembre
Mais à tout choisir je vous l'avoue
Mieux vaut le sable que la chambre

Yes - she knows my tricks by now, though I never played truant - maybe that's why she is called ÜberIch.