Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Monday, 7 April 2014

Sweet Violets and Perfume

Britta Huegel


Dear You,
you know that I love perfumes.
But I had to abandon 'Balenciaga Paris' for a while, because my nose became 'blind' to the fragrance. After being wrapped up some time in 'Shalimar', I could change back - the old wisdom that a little distance to something you love often works wonders was valid here too. (Don't let go - just loosen your grip! Don't try too hard - be patient, be self-sufficient - or, more my style: love yourself, then you will be able to love others for what they are, not out of need. End of Britta's Readers Digest).
           Somewhere I read: "Balenciaga Paris wears like a minimalist's veil". It smells of violets (without being sweet, romantic or old-fashioned - Charlotte Gainsbourgh fronted it, and she stands for urban). It is the perfume where I got the most feedback and praise from men: "What is it? You smell so good!" 
I love violets. So I tried to find the pure version, just as a room perfume. (Looking for a reason to speak of 'my boudoir').
At the stall of the perfumer Jo Malone, the saleswoman said: "I don't have violets. May I offer you bluebells?" I stared at her. We talked. And so I found out that this very young woman never ever in her whole life had smelled the fragrance of a living sweet violet. (It made me think of those poor children who believe that milk comes in beverage cartons from lilac Milka cows).
There are not many perfumes with violets on the market. They offered 'Violets de Toulouse' on the Internet. But I didn't want a mixture, so I contacted my lovely old-fashioned Zieten-apothecary (here I always feel I'm stepping back into another century - old wooden shelves and cabinets and brown glass-bottles that cry 'Drink me! Drink me!" - they sell Chinese medicine and homeopathic drugs too, you get the picture). Yes - they would order violet fragrance for me. The pharmacist read: "Petals of violets". I asked: "Excuse me - are you sure these are the petals of the blossom?" "Yes". 
OK. Next day I went there by underground, happy. I was less so when I opened the little bottle at home. It smelled like - hay. It was the juice from the green leaves. "Oh, I'm sorry", chirped the pharmacist, "bring it back. I will order something else - a violet oil."
Underground again. Disappointment at home - which I almost had expected, because it was too cheap to be the real thing. (I didn't telephone - I just throw it away - it smelled like candy floss).
The next day I passed a very nice little perfume-and-soap-shop. Went in. Talked with the young man about the impossibility to get violet-perfume these days. "Wow", he said, "you are ahead of fashion". (Modest as a violet I thought: I know - often I comb shops for clothes that will come three years later). "They created 'Viola' in 2013', and next year", he said, "sweet violets will be the craze." "Ah", I said, "but I want them now." 
(I'm not always a pure Taoist).
He thought for a long while, and than he made a telephone call to an Italian perfumer, L'Erbolario.
So, with a bit of luck, I might have found it. I will know it next week.

PS: If you want to read more about the sweet violet (and less about me :-), look at gardeninginhighheels.blogspot.com soon.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Pride Comes Before a Fall






Britta Huegel
Dear You, 
"A beautiful leg can't be disfigured by anything", said my posh orthopaedist, as he almost tenderly put a black mobile leg brace around my left ankle.
I am very thankful to him: he gave me an instant appointment, managed to get an appointment at the MRT-center the same day - and supported not only my ankle but also my moral.
"If you are lucky, only the front ligament is slightly torn. If not, you need surgery."
"I feel that it is only slightly torn," I chirped - not my usual pitch, but I was in pain.
And I was right - Lucky Me!
What had happened? Well - it wasn't "pride", it was haughty impatience. It was the first time that I went jogging+walking in my new Nike shoes. Pink. Sold to me in the new Nike shop that has opened on the Tauentzien-Kudamm in Berlin. I told the guy what I wanted them for. They were not cheap. I was no beginner at jogging. But he convinced me of the merits of the 'new technology', when I asked whether they weren't a bit "soft".
So out I went - with my new Nike+Fuel-Band on my wrist (I'll tell you about that in another post). I just reached the first corner of our street, waited because a cyclist neared from the left. He was a bit slow - so I gave him a (nice) little Royal wave of the hand, meaning: "Hurry up, slug." Then I tripped - over the extremely high kerb (I know that one - but I was distracted, and the new shoes gave no support).
Landed on all fours. (Six, to be precise: my knees got their bump too). Being trained, I fell quite well, and my gloves protected my hands.
But I have to say: I never had that feeling before: I was literally swept off my feet - at the angle of 90 degrees, or so it felt. Swoosh!!! 
The cyclist stopped, came back. "Everything OK?" It wasn't - but I would not tell Him (IF I finally managed to ever get up). "Everything OK?" he repeated doubtfully, when I said 'yes', but needed some time to get up. Then I walked - hahaha: euphemism, I hobbled back to our house. Felt like being 14 again (partly at least) - the burning on my knee was a well known though long forgotten pain: I have grown up very quickly, and being long and slim I often hit the ground then. I hit it so often that till today I have an inclusion of a itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny little piece of cinder from the Messegelände in Bremen (fair grounds) under one knee.
Back to 2014: in front of our house I stopped. Stood. Thought. Thought of two friends who had accidents with their ankles a few years ago. And still labour at them.
I listened into my body. In my head wailed Tom Petty: "No, I won't back down." And so I moved on. The first two streets were - well - painful, but I had the feeling that something began to assort itself. Well - I'm tough. I did my tour. A bit slow, of course, and a bit pale maybe, and freezing more than the temperature would indicate. Shock.
At home I wiped away the (not so much) blood on my knee. Kept moving, alternating with putting the leg up. In the morning: a very fat cute foot. And a visit to my cute orthopaedist...
What I thought really funny - and I told him, ("As long as you can laugh", he said) - was, that at the moment after the MRT-diagnosis - front ligament only slightly torn - keep your leg restful - cool it - get lymph drainage - use Mobilate gel and the leg brace - my fuel-band started to blink:
"Go, Britta, Go!" it glared.
I did - and it gets better every day.

Britta Huegel


PS: And I am oh so glad that we visited Son and Daughter-in-Love in Munich before my accident. We are so happy: both have had got their doctorate in Law - and to celebrate that occasion I could still wear High Heels. Bliss!

PPS: Nike will kindly take the shoes back tomorrow and select other ones for me.



Sunday, 9 March 2014

"Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!" Macbeth

                                                                    'The Princess and the Pea'  by son, aged 5 

Dear You, 
I consider buying one of the new Sleep-Tracking Apps - you know I'm easily fascinated by new technical gimmicks. I tend to "Jawbones" by Nike, which is also a fitness tracker band.
What held me back was:
a) my vanity aesthetic sense - they hadn't the turquois band I want, only drab ol' gray ones.
b) my various experiences of not being that talented in programming high-tech computer devices (though I can still charm a young salesperson to do that for me - the only difficulty is (look at point a): I won't tell my age :-)
c) and: the experts are not very convinced that they work. If you impersonate a 'William Styron' and just lie still and stare into the starry, starry night, the app thinks you sleep, because you don't move.
Do I need a 'Jawbone'?
A few years ago this question would have been met with polite disinterest. I went to bed and slept like a baby. Come to think of it: like a stone - I remember that a new born baby wakes up every four hours.
Nowadays I still have the very fine hearing of a fostress - in Germany we have the expression 'Ammenschlaf', sleep of the fostress, meaning: you wake up to every light disquieting sound. That is a good thing when you have to look after a baby or little child - but it is absolutely unnecessary in a person whose child has just reached the ripe age of 30 and lives in Munich.
I am overhypersensitive (look at the picture above), but I am clever (Yin and Yang...):
- when at 4 o'clock in the morning the central heating rushes into being, I successfully mesmerized myself to change it into 'white noise' - thus I learned to ignore it (after I listened to a real 'White Noise'-CD on Amazon - I knew that that sound would keep me wide awake because it sounds like our central heating...)
- I eat the recommended banana in the evening (and run an extra mile in the morning)
- I drink a mug of hot milk with honey
- I tried lavender oil, but I can't stand the smell
- being old-fashioned I never in my life used medication, (though Evelyn Waugh's mixture of "bromide and crème de menthe" sounds interesting) and will not start now; I believe that the body will fetch up in sleep some day (even if in form of a nap).
AND: why should I doze myself off when the reason is definitely extrinsic, not intrinsic?
Our old neighbour living above our heads has a bad hip now and thus leans on a thumpy stick and his orthopaedic shoe sounds on the wooden floors like a horseshoe - and he has to go to the loo at least three times during the night, and then his not-elf-like wife gets up to rush to the far away kitchen with a fit of the most evil smoker's cough I ever heard? And one of them snores - oh yes, you can hear that... But these are all things you reasonably can't complain about. Our huge flats are constructed in a way that you can run around in circles - and they do: in none of all the rooms on the 180 square metres is a corner which they don't stomp through at night.
None. But I would feel silly to ask them to use a special trail at night...
Husband sleeps sound and well. His hearing isn't quite as good as it was. (Yin and Yang again :-)
I believe Russell Sanna, the executive director of the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine who says: "The reality of sleep is often at variance with the perception of sleep", meaning, one overestimates the time you lie wide awake at night. 
But please don't tell me that in the morning! 
I can prove my sleepless time by the pages I read of the very -- soporific tome of household-wisdom, "Home Comforts" by Cheryl Mendelson. It has 884 pages in very small print, and very detailed descriptions about Ironing Temperatures, Spills and Stains, Fabrics That Work and other delightful profound topics - I admit to feel a bit drowsy now when I write them down...
I try to work hard to change the stomping into 'white noise', and suppress my urge to rush and administer first aid help for a suffocating smoker... but till I reached that stage, I'll read on. Oh, interesting: the chapter on "Poisons, Hazardous Substances and Proper Disposal of Hazardous Household Wastes"...





Wednesday, 26 February 2014

"Supergeil" - from my "Diary of a Best Ager"



Diary of a Best Ager (‘consumer older than 40’ www.dict.cc)

Today I found something enjoyable in the newspaper (very rare today, I have to say – astonishingly I find more and more articles where the journalists use terms like “grandma” when they speak of a completely unknown lady, who – as the added photo shows, is as fit as a fiddle and looks like ‘the new thirty’. (Almost).
But today they write about Friedrich Liechtenstein (a pseudonym – his real name is Hans-Holger Friedrich). He is stunning: he acts in an advertisement for Edeka (a German supermarket chain) – and he uses only a few words: “supergeil” – meaning: “super hot” yeah – you got it: very attractive, very sexy – ‘freakin’ awesome’.
Almost 3 million people clicked on this spot on youtube – and I think I know why: it is funny, it is sexy – imagine: old and sexy! – it is, in one word: “Supergeil!” 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

'The House In Good Taste'

Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
On Sunday husband and I talked about 'home' as (one) expression of ourselves.
People are always quite astonished at how we live.
Their fantasy paints pictures that might stem from husband's profession - "a university professor" at least in the German mind has a special image, and we often brim over with mirth when we remember a quote that son brought home in the days he still went to grammar school:
"I see you and your parents", one learned teacher told him, "in the evening - all three of you making Hausmusik in front of your fireplace." 
(If any student of Hans reads this, he/she will roll on the ground screaming with laughter too).
The second 'label' was quite correct: books, books, books (and some more books). Most of them in the three-room-study in our house in Hildesheim (above our big flat where we, the family, lived - and also many books in that too). Most of them are still in Hildesheim, (although 6000 went as an endowment to the Literary Archive in Marbach - though that didn't help much to create more space: miraculously the shelves filled up with lightning speed). "They are my tools", Hans says apologetically, and he is right - now they wait for him three or four days of the week in Hildesheim, because in Hamburg, then in Berlin, I wanted less of these dusty friends (there are still enough!).
A friend, an architect, said after his first visit to us: "I am so happy! I really feared what might have been your interior design - but I think it is absolutely you!"
You bet! A very mixed style, not many antiques (as a lot of people seem to expect), nor stylish modern "design". (I put it in brackets, because everything is design).
And my kitchen - which I like! - is a shock for all these dream-kitchen people, who look at the advertisements (where - in a ridiculously spacious kitchen - huge - grey - with a bar and lacquered shining fronts -  you might find after look hard enough somewhere in the vast wilderness a chic little couple, lacquered as their empty kitchen - maybe they discuss whether they will order something from the Chinese take-away, because that sort of kitchen isn't made for cooking). Or those baths: when I see the altars - oh, sorry, got the wrong impression: it is the bath tub, not an altar - also in a room as big as a football field -- I wonder... though I admit that I would like our bathroom in Berlin to be a bit bigger - (as it was in Hamburg) - our bath now in the 180 square meter flat has somewhat Spartan features - but then: we can live with that.
What we love and want most is space and light.
Except twice we always had Art Deco flats in the many cities we lived in - high ceilings, high windows, pitch pine or beautiful parquet, folding doors, stucco. In every flat each of us had a study - a room of one's own.
Our guests have to sleep on a comfortable daybed for two (I tested it) - if you need two seperate beds we have to think hard and please tell us before your visit.  
PS: The title of this blog is from Elsie de Wolfe's lovely book "The House In Good Taste", first published in 1913, written by 'The First Lady of Interior Decoration'.
I hope very much that you find that the Quiche and the lamb's lettuce and the home made mousse au chocolat will provide the good taste when you just drop in...


Friday, 14 February 2014

A Valentine for A.A. Milne - who reads from Winnie-the-Pooh



Dear You, 

I found the reading by the author himself on http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/02/13/a-a-milne-reads-winie-the-pooh-1929/ - a very inspiring blog with oh so many interesting subjects.
And as I love Winnie-The-Pooh so much, I wanted to share it - enjoy (the story starts after a few seconds).

So have a lovely Valentine! My next blog will follow soon, but now
I have to leave - I have something to do - I suppose I really ought to do it now. (...) It isn't the sort of thing you can do in the afternoon, (...), it's a very particular morning thing, that has to be done in the morning, and, if possible, between the hours of - What would you say the time was?" "About twelve," said Winnie-the-Poo (...). 
"Between, as I was saying, the hours of twelve and twelve-five. So, really, dear old Pooh, if you'll excuse me - 

Yours
Britta


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Berlinale 2014




Tilda Swinton was here at the Berlinale  - the film "Grand Hotel Budapest" was shown 7 minutes away from our flat at the Zoo Palast - and I missed her! 
I already missed her in Edingburgh , where I was at the Film Festval in 2010 by a hair's breadths:



Well, in Bremen we have a saying: "Three is the inhabitant of Bremen's right" - so hopefully next time.
And  I will see "The Grand Budapest Hotel" - quite certain.