Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Marvelous Toy - my Nike+ FuelBand

Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
we are still melting away in Berlin - on our balcony we had 38°C yesterday, and in the evening we are all happy to manage just to reach the Viktoria-Luise-Platz (two streets further) if necessary on all fours and order a cool Weißbier and look at the beautiful fountain of this "Adornment Place", as the creator of the Bavarian Quarter called the many little places with fountains, greens and benches created at 1900 for the benefit of the brave bourjeois.
But lifting the tall beer-glass is not enough to stay fit!
Yours Truly - always easily in love with a new technical gimmick - possesses the Nike + Fuel band for about 5 months now. Enough time to find out that it is
- inaccurate (when I wear a tote bag in my right hand and wear the Fuel band on my right wrist - it doesn't count my steps correctly, it counts less)
- more than inaccurate - downright lying! and frivolous superficial: when I am pushing heavy weights at the fitness studio, I get less points than I get for preparing breakfast
- competitive (well, that I might be too) - it tells you in the evening, when you connect it with your computer how well you managed in relation to your age-group (I am much better!) and in relation to all Nike + Fuel Band users (among them the 17 year old sport addicts - guess: I am much better!). These points are absolute numbers, not influenced by your age.
- In my defence I can offer: except this one time I don't boast about it. Really - I don't. Neither do I post my sensational points on Facebook (and bore you stiff) nor on Google + (and bore you stiff). Yes, one can do that, but I don't.
If this little gadget has so many faults - and a pedometer would do the trick as well - why do I love it?
Well - in the beginning husband was very surprised to hear me chirp: "No, you don't have to go to the grocer's - I'll do it!" and woosh I was away - I still needed 176 points to reach my "GOAL! GOAL! GOAL!" Very untypical for me, I even offered to bring down the garbage! (He got a bit anxious then).
   The garbage is his task again... BUT: my psyche is constructed in such a simple way that it helps to look at my fuel band to make me walk and move more. And that is a good thing, simple or not. This Lady thrives on praise - and that it gives frequently. Sometimes a bit - hilariously: I'll never forget when my orthopaedist told me I should rest my knee (later my ankle - both well again, thank you) - and just at this moment the Fuel band blinked in big letters: "GO, BRITTA, GO!" (It won).
Ah - and I even learned something for 'Life as Such':
when I first put my GOAL! GOAL! GOAL!!! very high, I reached it every time, but with gritted teeth. Now I lowered the goal for a third, reach it every time, am happy - and march on, thus reaching the former high goal of the past almost every time - but with the smug self-satisfaction of thinking: I hadn't to do this.
And that's a good thing to learn for other aims in my life too.  

Sunday, 20 July 2014

"Cocoon above! Cocoon below!"

Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
I am a bit suspicious by now. Don't trust myself. Or know myself all too well... which might be the same thing, in the end. 
Meaning: Look at those few posts in the July, (few?!? - I'm fooling myself: only one!), dribbling like tired water from an old hose. I know: we have July - it is hot - very hot in Berlin at the moment, they foretold us 36°C... I love it, but it doesn't turn me into a Mexican jumping-bean... 
A lot of other bloggers seem to be a bit under the weather too. To check myself out I looked at my old blog, "You are witty and pretty". A lot of the dear followers there - of course all bloggers too - have thrown in the towel. Some changed their blog-address. And I want to find out when I gave up my blog - aha: December 2012, BUT - it started much earlier, the retreat - about August, I would say. (Why does Edna O'Brians title "August is a Wicked Month" springs into my mind?). 
I changed my blog after two years - regretted it, because I had more followers then - and hope I have learned from history (hahaha, every historian gives a hearty laugh). Change isn't the answer (that will always happen without my doing). Concentration might be. 
(In this heat? You bet...) 
What do I want to tell you? I am utterly clear in my German blog about cafés and culture in Berlin; quite clear in my blog "Britta's Happiness of the Day" (; also clear but - reduced to a balcony instead of a garden - a bit restrained on "Gardening in High Heels"( - but here? 
A little dab of culture, a little dot of everyday life, a whiff of this, a tattle of that. 
But still I think I won't do what I did yesterday (at last!): I planted a new rose on my balcony, "Augusta Luise", beautifully scented, adorable apricot, wonderful form. I brought her "successor till yesterday, Augusta Luise I." from my garden in Hamburg to the balcony in Berlin; she flowered in the first year, mumbled in the second - then was cautioned by me in the third and fourth year (when she didn't produce one single blossom) - and then I cut a long story short, or, as we say in Germany: "He that will not hear must feel" (come to think of it: that saying dates me - nobody seems to even understand the meaning of it anymore today - but that might be a good thing, too). But poor Augusta Luise I. was banned into the Hinterhof - and I bought a successor, "Augusta Luise II.". (And I do hope that "Getrude Jekyll", "New Dawn", "Iceberg", "Hans Gönnewein" and the other two are willing to draw their lessons from that!)  
And decide languidly: I will stay with this blog. It is much too hot to change it now. 

(fickle and a bit vague as the photo above). 

PS: Just to give you at least something of substance: 

Cocoon above! Cocoon below!
Stealthy Cocoon, why hide you so
What all the world suspect?
An hour, and gay on every tree
Your secret, perched in ecstasy
Defies imprisonment!

An hour in Chrysalis to pass,
Then gay above receding grass
A Butterfly to go!
A moment to interrogate,
Then wiser than a "Surrogate,"
The Universe to know! 
Emily Dickinson 

Sunday, 6 July 2014


Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
I feel a bit like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, muttering "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" - being head over heels in work, being rude in not commenting on your blogs (though I read them!) - but having time to apply for Sir Paul's Band "The Hawkmoths" (I confess: the photograph of me above that I sent him is not utterly new) - look at - 
and I was chosen! My heart races - and I am so glad that Rosemary from is there too!! 
We play in the West End in London - virtual of course, the Mothettes fluttering around the Hawkmoth Sir Paul - the contrast of our leather outfits (yes - think: Suzie Quatro, Gianna Nannini or Tina Turner) to his tophat and white silk scarf will be ravishing. 
Makes me think back of my real tour through Germany - long time ago, where we were modeling and danced for a big fashion company through Germany's big cities. Yes - Yours Truly danced here in the Kongreßhalle in Berlin (now it is called: "House of the Cultures): 

and in Hamburg, and Frankfurt, and Hannover, and Munich, and, and... 
It was such a fun! (for us - we were students and could go back to our studies - the real models and dressmen and dancers faced a harder life). I could tell you 1001 stories from that tour - but: "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!

PS: One thing I have to work out in my soul: 
I always held it with Marlene Dietrich's song - you might know it: "I am from head to toe centered on love" 

where she sings: 
                            "Men flutter around me 
                              like moths around the (candle)light, 
                              and if they are consumed by fire - 
                              well, that's not my fault!" 

BUT now - as a MOTHETTE - which fate is awaiting me??? 

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!