Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Call from the Muddler's Button Collection

Britta Huegel

Dear You,
what you see in the photo above is just one third of the things (here the books I took to Berlin) I had to move...
I suspect that the many sleep-disturbed nights (I told you some time ago that I made a big mistake when I exchanged two rooms, having overlooked - or underestimated - the 'elf' with the gruesome smoker's hack and her night-thumping husband above our heads) have made me edgy and losing perspective - so I blew up some more or less petty little incidents into major issues and moaned (publicly - Fie! Fie!) - but I was really sleep-deprived. (Husband is better off: his hearing gets a bit weaker - mine is still that of a bat).
But finally I sat down and thought really hard about it.
And reminded myself  of Hill's Law No.7: When you have made a mistake (which I had by exchanging the rooms), there is no need to stubbornly hang on to it. (It's just my foolish pride..). Yes, Bob Dylan sang especially for me:
Well, the moral of the story,
The moral of this song,
Is simply that one should never be
Where one does not belong.
So when you see your neighbor carryin' somethin',
Help him with his load,
And don't go mistaking Paradise
For that home across the road.

Wrong! I grumbled (still over-tired). I need someone to carry my load! 
So I bit the bullet, and phoned the removal men. In Berlin they are known for their humour.
"Oh, we do know exactly where to put the furniture", they sniggered, "you can go and drink an espresso, my dear." 
Well - I stayed. Had to do a lot before (see above), and after. It is a mystery how much is hiding in seemingly fragile-looking slim cupboards. And on bookshelves. (Once again I found out that I seem to fear a total shortage of paper: I tend to hoard empty notebooks, empty diaries and a lot of watercolours, pens, inks in different colours, and pastels. Lots and lots. The drawers look like the Button Collection the Muddler lost some time ago...)
"We'll be pleased", my removal men said, "when you call us again. In a month or two?? We are athletically trained. Hahaha."  
Now everything looks nice. The balcony is again in front of my writing-table. Good!
And I feel home again - and can sleep (they only thump once or twice every night over my head - I can live with that).
And feel better already.



Sunday, 25 May 2014

She dat typa girl dat'll turn you into stone...


Britta Huegel


Dear You,

you might have noticed that I started a new blog, "Berlin zum Dritten". 
The title is from Robert Gernhardt's poem 'Berlin thirdly', which starts: 

 "One never steps twice into the same city. You just aren't the same one as you have been. Once you were young, at that time the city was already old. Now you are older, and the city becomes younger."  (rough translation by me). 

I write the blog in German, because I thought that I need a "stage" for my mothertongue too. The subjects which I choose from what I notice in Berlin might be too specially Berlin-centered. And if you are curious: I'll enable Google-translation.

Klick. CLICK! 

I looked - and "turned to stone" -- ---second time this week   ----- 
that's why you see the beautiful marble statue that Gianlorenzo Bernini created about 1635 of Medusa in the picture above. (And of course it is a link to my recent German blog). 
Google's translation into English (sort of...) is simply gruesome. 
Being of a kind nature (and vain), I really pondered about the question whether I should translate the German posts into English. But that's a lot of work - and the sun is shining so nicely outside, the birds are singing --- I will think a while, then we'll see. 

“I'll think of it tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. (...). After all, tomorrow is another day 

as Scarlett O'Hara said in 'Gone with the Wind'. 
Maybe Im a bit shell-shocked   tired too. But you know: I'm a tough roly poly


Sunday, 18 May 2014

World Baking Day: Now

Britta Huegel

Dear Sir Paul, 
on  http://magicalchristmaswreaths.blogspot.de/ you told me that today is "World Baking Day", and I promised to join in (proudly telling you that I translated "LEON. Baking&Puddings" by Claire Ptak & Henry Dimbleby for Germany's most famous publisher DuMont last year)
We had guests today, so I served the cake as a dessert. They all enjoyed it (me too, because it is easy and fool-proof to make). May I add that I took very dark chocolate, 75% - because one has to counteract the sugar.
Here it is:

Flourless Chocolate torte with macerated strawberries 
{Woolworths/Masterchef}
Recipe type: Dessert, cake, tea, baking, baked goods
Prep time:  20 mins
Cook time:  25 mins
Total time:  45 mins
Serves: 8-10

Ingredients
·         6 eggs
·         100g white sugar
·         100g brown sugar
·         300g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
·         2 T instant espresso powder
for the macerated strawberries
·         200g strawberries, sliced
·         3 T icing sugar, sifted
to serve
·         250ml cream, whipped
·         icing sugar, for dusting
Instructions
1.     Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and grease and line a 27cm round cake tin.
2.     In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whisk the eggs and sugars until light and creamy. This can take up to 5 minutes.
3.     Melt the chocolate over a double boiler and when the eggs are light and voluminous, slowly pour in the melted chocolate, whisking continuously.
4.     Add the espresso powder and fold in.
5.     Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and place in the oven.
6.     Bake for 25 minutes until the cake has risen and feels slightly firm.
7.     Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin. It will sink in the middle.
8.     Combine the strawberries and icing sugar in a bowl and allow to stand for up to 30 minutes.
9.     To serve, slice the chocolate torte then serve with a dollop of whipped cream, a spoonful of the macerated strawberries dusted with icing sugar.


Britta Huegel



Wednesday, 7 May 2014

'Love after Love' by Derek Walcott

Britta Huegel


Dear You, 
today I send you a beautiful poem by Derek Walcott. Normally I would put it on "Britta's Happiness of the Day" (www.burstingwithhappiness.blogspot.com), where I usually combine a photo with a poem (or rarely a quote) and then put in my two cents.
But you, Dear You, seldom find the time to look up that page - though it might bring more insights then my "little dabs here", as Miss Mapp would 'humbly' say.
This poem means much to me:

Love after Love 

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life. 

Derek Walcott 

Because I love this poem, I comment here in a much longer form than on 'Happiness of the Day". 
(There are many ways this poem is interpretated - sometimes as religious, sometimes as trying to reconcile the black and white parts in Walcott himself after the colonial era, sometimes as 'Find loving yourself after an unhappy relationship." . 
I will not speak about these possible interpretations, nor about the formal construction of the four stanzas, the enjambement which links the stanzas to each other or the lines of varying length.)  

Here I want to show you what I see in it. 
For me it is a beautiful description of what might happen when you get older. 
When we were little children, we accepted (or mirrored) our self in a direct and unadularated way. We were one with ourself. Then we were educated, learned how to please others, and with puberty we tried oh so hard to love "the prince" or "princess" - looking for the ideal person, the saviour. 
When deeply in love we (often) ignored our self - till we became strangers to ourselves. We became thin. 
"Give wine. Give bread, Give back your heart" - Derek writes. 
When we get older, we (hopefully) find ourselves as worthy as others. We don't need another person to explain our life, shelter us. That does not mean that Love isn't a wonderful thing - it is! - but you will no longer love at the price of the loss of self. 
At first you might be unhappy to get older - maybe losing the "romantic love",missing it with its drama and ups-and-downs. That way of growing-up doesn't seem that enticing - but: "The time will come/ when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving." 
And you might even get more. When I read the line: "peel your own image from the mirror", I instantly think of the book "The Empty Mirror" by Janwillem van de Wetering - he lived for a while in a Japanese Zen cloister.  The motto of his book is:

"The empty mirror", he said. 
"If you could really understand that, 
then you'd have no business here!" 

To me, this means: total wisdom - the letting go of the Ego. 
But till we are that wise, let's follow Derek Walcott's beautiful advice: 

"Sit. Feast on your life."    
.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Today is World's Day of Laughter

I laugh very much - and it doesn't need a huge reason. If a person starts to laugh, it can happen that I hoot with laughter till the tears wash away my Amy-Winehouse-eyeliner. The following videos were quoted by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (with a lot of analyzing text) for the World's Day of Laughter, which is celebrated today. I hope you laugh with me. 



Other languages can be funny:


...and administration- regulations: the Swiss Federal Councillor Hans-Rudolph Merz, who has to answer Parliament a question concerning meat-import:



Friday, 2 May 2014

'Operation Bumblebee'


Britta Huegel

When I read the last post of Tom Stephenson about bumblebees, I remembered the story about the theft of a complete garden in England.
A man was moving within Bristol, and when later his wife drove to their old home, the 300 square meter garden was gone.
"Shrubs, trees, fieldstone terrace, flowers, borders, the pseudo-antique sun dial, benches, garden table (together with chairs), (...) wishing well, Italian platters, (...) garden fence, (...) all of it gone." As well as trees as tall as a man and two fishponds (with 17 kois).
In England "Garden-crimes" are no longer rare. One million gardens get plundered per planting-season, and the damage runs up to 105 million Pounds Sterling, say the insurance companies. Per year!
The police started the "Operation Bumblebee" - though the fast-seller was the bumlebee-coloured brochure, the thefts go on.
The more I read, the more alarmed I got. (Smiley, smiley!!) Could that happen to us too?
Mostly I would miss Vita Sackville's beautiful bench, the expensive basalt paving stones on which it stands, though the shimmering quartz square stones weren't cheap either. And the plants? Well - the rhododendrons are quite big, the virburnum, the Alpine azalea, the many, many box hedges, the roses, the rose arches and the rose obelisk, and the great perennials...  Gulp - that will amount to quite a sum. How lucky that no insurance agent is near - at the moment I might make an easy victim :-). Garden-household insurance. Everything insured except the the mouseprint - which of course would exclude everything, except the ground elder, the hazel bushes and the elder - and those not even thieves would want to steal.
I remember my neighbour from Kalenberger Moat. Two years ago she stood aghast in her front garden. She had planted twelve expensive precious roses, all along the house. And suddenly, one morning, they had vanished. Thieves had come under the screen of night, had digged out all the roses, put them on a hanger and disappeared , never to be seen again.
The chef of "Gardening Which?" let conceptualise an exemplary burglar-proof garden, "Safe Heaven" (or was it haven?). With hidden infrared-transmitters, bevelled pickets, and blackthorn, holly and berberies - all very defensive.
I ponder over my garden: seen under this aspect Vita's wild rose hedge is at least a success. To surmount the devil sheet might be difficult. Spiky roses all side long to the neighbour at the right. At left spiky common juniper - and how good that I never got a grip on the blackberries behind!
And the old wrought iron fence in the frontgarden has dangerous spikes. Now I understand why there are these ugly shards of glass on the corner wall - maybe in 1902 there was another person afraid for his hostas and his distinguished lilacs?
White gravel I have spread bewteen the box hedges (though there is always a little less for scrunching after each weeding). The only weak point is the garden entrance behind the house. But even at this entrance Husband and Son always complain about the deep-hanging roses on the rose arch. Now I have a new argument: it is part of my "Operation Bumblebee". The bumblebees and the bees have already understood that and mutter and buzz tantalizingly in the blossoms. And the blackbirds wear little caps and feel like Deputy Sheriffs.
"Colin Warburton, Bristol's John Lackland, has only a scornful snorting for these 'plant protection products'." "It's no use as long as nobody intervenes", he says. His neighbours had watched the repotting action as cool as a cucumber - assuming that it was part of the move." (Zeit-Magazin)
In my garden they wouldn't even be able to see anything, the neighbours...