Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Saturday, 28 June 2014

World Cup Fever

Britta Huegel

  • "Deutschland bebt - und das völlig zu Recht!" / Germany is writhing, and utterly rightly so.Thomas Müller
I have to confess that I am not that into football (soccer). Which is an understatement. 
Husband, and son and daughter-in-love are football-fans. 
(Thus they are astonished that I knew a prominent player of Werder Bremen - the Hansestadt Bremen is my hometown - when I was young. He could not light my fire for football.) 
Non-football-lovers often do not know how great are the sacrifices fans make for them.  
There is that old chestnut of a - sad to admit: true - story which is often retold to show the amount of love my husband (though at that time he wasn't) has for me. He had bought tickets for an important Football Cup Match in Frankfurt. 
When we arrived at the Frankfurter Waldstadion, this woman started to moan: "Look at all those people in front of us on the sand path - they all carry buckets with beer - I don't like being in such a mass of drunken people - oh, and now we stand here on top place of the stadion and I see nothing, only the backs of them - I can't see anything!" ending with: "I would prefer a stroll in the woods." 
Which we did, unbelievable as it sounds nowadays. 
Getting older I learned to behave better - isn't that encouraging?: when husband in Berlin invited me to the quarter final of the German Open of Snooker to the Tempodrom, I looked down from our seats high above, saw someone who was called Ronny O'Sullivan, saw three green tables and beautiful coloured lacquered balls - but not knowing the rules it was soon a bit - boring. BUT age has softened me (haha) - why spoil another person's joy? In the break I said to husband: "I'll drive home with the underground, you stay here and look and enjoy." That was a good solution - even better is the one now: husband goes with Matti, a friend who can value the game.  
So: I don't look football on TV or otherwise. 
But noone can overlook the very funny strange effects that World Cup-fandom produces here in Germany. 
At the KaDeWe a salesgirl keyed in the prices into the till - with nails painted in Black-Red-Gold. At that temple of elegance and luxury! 
Downstairs someone pushed in a pram - and the baby inside - I couldn't believe - sucked at a baby's dummy, which was in the colours of Black-Red-Gold. Then I saw a dog - wearing a T-shirt - guess the colours?? 
And later a man, fortyish, on a bike, who had a shaved head, sporting just a flat Mohican haircut on top, dyed in??? Yes, of course: Black-Red-Gold
And I had no camera with me! 
In the quarter with the many Christmas decorations they spill our flag everywhere - a little bar outside: has black seats, red blankets, and golden cushions. 
But the picture above of a very kitschig frontgarden topped it all! .  

Britta Huegel

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Wolf Whistles

Dear You,
how do you feel about wolf whistles?
I ask  because I found this funny passage in the hilarious book of India Knight, 'Mutton. Age before Beauty. Maybe.' The book's heroine, aged 46, walks by a scaffolding with builders - and nothing happens. Not one odd catcall comes. She muses:

"Oh, I know. I spent many decades of my life objecting vigorously to objectification. I could bore for England about the theory. Ew, everyday sexism: the horror. Obviously men shouldn't shout things out at women in the street. It's not nice. But I'll tell you what else I don't find nice either, to be absolutely honest with you: this weird silence. What is wrong with these freaks?" 

I have nothing against wolf whistles. Never had. Take them as a compliment. When I walk past a building site, and they whistle, the pack sits in a pit, or on a high scaffolding. To me it is only a rough way of flirting.
I once told you: I am a flirt and will stay so till I'm a hundred (or more?). I flirt with men, children, cats and even flowers (yes, you can - try it!) It is a very pleasant game, for both sides.
But some women find it upsetting.
For men these times are difficult. In the last decades they get what psychology calls "double-bind messages". Or, reversing my beloved quote from Shirley Conran - "A mother's place is in the wrong" - to "A man's place is in the wrong." Don't misunderstand me, please: I'm speaking of wolf whistles. Bravado. Flirts. Not pawing or violence.
I enjoy it when a man holds a door open for me - I do not cry angrily 'I can do that on my own!' (as I have often seen). I like knights in shining armour. Politeness. (In other parts of life too). Though one can go too far: Today I read that the BBC makes Britain discuss whether one should ask a woman before kissing her. Uh, what??? I think that goes without saying - let alone asking. You feel it. (I hope). What said my driving instructor about entering a dubious turn in the road in high speed? "When in doubt - don't." 
In the blog world there are wolf whistles too. Don't think I put comment moderation up against those. 
No - I have a very persistent "Anonymous", who always sends advertising comments disguised as comments on the post "Arsène Lupin, Raffles and..." 
Now I ask you: Who in his right mind can believe that this will lure me on his website? Anonymous might also easily believe that Little Girls, wearing a Red Riding Hood, will take a woolf for a grandma. (Tom, here might be the appropriate place for a Grandma-axe-pun). 
No, I keep it with James Thurber, who recast the story, ending: 

When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.

Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A German Hausfrau Unter den Linden

Britta Huegel

Dear You,
these days, when I leave our house I'm instantly wrapped in the sweetest honey-est scent of flowering limetrees. Berlin has thousands upon thousands of them, it is the greenest city of Germany. So the air is filled with a very special and seductive delectation.
You  -  just - melt - away. Dizzy. Almost drunk. 
(Some poor bumblebees even die - they lie on the pavement, having looked too deep into the Mass full of nectar - plastered first, then on the Stairway to Heaven. Too late to become a teetotaller!)
Two years ago I published a poem on my blog "Britta's Happiness of the Day", written by Walther von der Vogelweide, our poet from the High Middle Ages (that most Germans would not understand anymore). "Under der linden" is so beautiful, and maybe I will do a translation of my own in the next days, because I am not utterly happy with the one I quote there.
You might know Berlin's famous boulevard "Unter den Linden" - though at the moment you would see more construction areas than limes (they build the new underground 55 - a silly project, only 1,8km long. I don't believe that chancellor Merkel or any MP will use that underground from Hauptbahnhof to the Brandenburger Tor -- and no back-bencher will do that either: they all are chauffeured around in their huge limousines while preaching ecology of environment to us, their beloved voters. It is not social envy that makes me angry - as you all know I love beautiful and racy cars - it is the hypocrisy to speak of ecology and then sit in an official car as that of our mayor's, a 435 PS strong gasoline-engined car, which needs 9,2 liter on 100 kilometers on average - with 216 gram Co2-emission per kilometer.
For the U55 they chopped a lot of old limetrees, which will be replaced in time. They promised. So we can feel reassured.
Yesterday I had to do a lot of car-cleaning: Knut, my little red Fiat 500, had been parked for 2 weeks under a lime tree - first the weather was too hot to use a car, then I was in Munich. And now: horror!
You see: the leaves of the limetrees look like being lacquered, and when you walk under them, you think: What? Is it raining in a fine spray?
It isn't. There are zillions of aphids... sprinkling everything underneath with a sugary sticky film - I couldn't look Knut into his eyes! So I put on my Marigolds and took a bottle of Windolene and freed the sight, his and mine.
I have a dashy photo where I stand on a high ladder - in Marigolds, with an apron and a feather duster (oh, I almost forgot the little black dress, smiley, smiley!) - the incarnation of what men think a Hausfrau should look like. It was actually made for (the German issue of) Men's Health, for which I sometimes answer household questions.
Thought I show you the beautiful limetree photo instead.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Beauty in the Air: the Balcony

Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
Our balcony is very beautiful at the moment. The roses are in full bloom, pansies are still fine, and one can even find a few clematis blossoms (I wasn't as lucky as last year, when I had over 20 flowers on one of the two clematis). The wine makes me a bit anxious - fewer leaves than usual, and no flowering for grapes to see. Husband is anxious too: he almost can't find a place for his cup of coffee.

Britta Huegel

The voice of an acquaitance became agitated, when she told me about a friend of her: "Can you imagine? She has 40 pots on her balcony - forty!" . 
I went home and counted mine: 60. Oh. Yet the best is still to come: the buds of the lilies are almost bursting. (The first photo is the only one from last year's balcony - the New Dawn rose now creeps over the railing of the balcony and looks down on the street - a helicopter plant). ).

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

I'm especially proud of this pelargonium - I got it from the Royal Court gardener of Schloss Charlottenburg. (Of course that's not his title - but the Schloss is still a castle).

Britta Huegel

I love to potter and putter around. First thing in the morning is a step on my balcony:

Good Morning, 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