Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Multitasking - as they say a woman can...

©photoBrigitta Huegel


Dear You,
the above photo shows you a (once) glazed tile on which I drew a picture decades ago that I had spotted in a Cosmopolitan - oh yes, now you know what you might have always suspected: I was an avid reader of Cosmo (British edition) - and it might have shaped my superficial view on life, career and men. (I bought their Cosmo books for Alpha Women, sniggered through Tom Crabtree's wonderful psycholigical insights; and met my dearest friend Stephen Russell (Barefoot Doctor) in real life - the Urban Warrior, who still visits me in Berlin.
Nowadays I don't read Cosmo anymore - more precise: I don't read women's magazines anymore - too much to do.
So much, that today I wanted to test a quality they say women are good at: multitasking.
My dear Tamagotchi Exprelia (you remember her? Let me assure you: first impressions are very often very right: the exclusive coffee machine is the most demanding and outright brazen thing I own - but her coffee is very good, so I try to come even with her. In Berlin we have horrible calcareous water, and though I always use a Brita filter, the machine insists on being decalcified after less than a month (!!! and it does not - as they pretend in the 82 !!! pages of the user manual they hide on a DVD while innocently (though with a faintly noticeable sardonic smile around their lips) handing out to the naive buyer - me - a little leaflet to read, - pretending ultra simplicity and pure convenience, har, har, har... - oh, I lose the thread (but never, as husband sometimes remarks a bit reproachfully: the point of my crusade) -- SO: decalcifying does NOT take the pretended 35 minutes, but 55 minutes (of your life)!
In which you have to be THERE (because T. gives you a hundred and one little orders, and like a little cat that is wrongly handled it pisses on the floor if you don't dance around her...)
Ah - come to think of it: I might write a backup-book - "Coffee-Meditations for the Modern Woman - How to be fully in the Here and Now" (As I said: you HAVE to be HERE). Might even sell it to dear Cosmo.
So multitasking I took out the wonderful cookbook "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi and prepared inbetween "Roasted Parsnips with sweet potatoes" (yummy! - which takes an hour to roast in the oven). AND multitasked the fridge (taking part in The Kitchn's January Cure Apartmenttherapy - which told us followers to clean the kitchen deeply on this Saturday/Sunday, AND in between I memorized my Italian vocabulary and grammar, AND put down a few hints for some questions a journalist asked me to answer.
In the end I and everything was finished.
I have to confess: from now on I take again the male viewpoint and stick to it - "One thing at a time."
Mindful.
Of course.

PS: Son lectured me on never to personalize THINGS - makes you prone to subtile assaults - and as I follow his advices almost blindly, you won't hear of my Tamagotchi coffee machine again.
(Am too busy for games like that, have to... oh! ...it bellows:  "Fill up the water tank!" Sorry... 


http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/a-better-kitchen-by-sunday-evening-the-january-cure-assignment-6-214535?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=tk



Thursday, 8 January 2015

One Riddle Solved! (Spit Chewing gum can look lovely!)

©Brigitta Huegel



Dear You, 
you know by now that I have an eye for little things - and being (part-)eidetic, I do not forget pictures (nor faces, even when they have aged during years-long absence).   
So when I spent a few weeks in London in August 2014, I walked over the Millenium Bridge,  and run with the hustling stream of visitors. Then I stopped, several times, seeing tiny drawings at my feet (or under the feet of others - people just don't look), very colourful and a bit naive, like little graffiti. Of course I took photographs (not that easy - I could not get sharper ones), and when I tried to find out what they are, no one could tell me (might have asked the wrong people in Tate Modern?) 
Now I think the riddle is solved: I looked into facebook today and saw a photo in The Londonist and thought: that must be him - the creator of these tiny images! 
Artist Ben Wilson draws his miniatures on chewing gum that other people carelessly spit out on the pavement - and in a BBC interview (at the end of my letter) I found this sentence most impressing: "Not making to many judgments - just seeing what we can make out of it". (OWTTE)

http://cdn.londonist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Chewing-gum.jpg

Here is the link to the BBC film: 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-11677462

So I am content that I stayed on facebook (though I drastically reduced the time I spend there to 10 minutes a day). 
And happy to have one answer (of many) solved. 

Yours 
Britta 


Saturday, 3 January 2015

An Obi and Japanese New Year Felicitations

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You,

Times of year -

"On the first day of the year, the sky is gloriously fresh and spring mists hang in the air. It's quite special and delightful the way people everywhere have taken particular care over their clothing and makeup, and go about exchanging New Year felicitations." 

So writes Sei Shonagon in "The Pillow Book" at the Height of the Heian period (794 - 1186). Heian means 'peace and tranquility'. Sei Shonagun - born around 966 - became a gentlewoman for service of court to the Empress Teishi in spring 993, when she was in her late twenties, ten years older than the Empress.
I took the book, a Penguin Classics translated by Meredith McKinney, up again after I looked at my lovely birthday present: an old obi - the long sash for traditional kimonos.
It is 30cm (12 in) wide and about 4 metres (13ft) long (I hung it double on the wall).
I found it at an very interesting vintage shop in Berlin (address at the end of the post), and for a while I couldn't decide whether I wanted this one or another. The owner gave me 3 days to think about it - but when I came back (to buy both), she said: "I'm sorry - one is sold." I asked breathlessly: "Which one?" - for at that moment I knew exactly which one I wanted - and, good luck: it was still there!
(Insight: This is an excellent method when you can't decide: ask yourself which of the two alternatives you would choose in a second - and how would you feel if it were gone?)
The obi became part of traditional clothing in the Edo period (1600-1868); in the Meiji era (1868-1912) the textile industry witnessed a revolution with the advent of electric weaving looms from the West. Modern Japanese women don't wear obis any more, so the industry declined, and old obis became rare - vintage maru obis being the most valuable "as the patina of the gold thread resembles that of of an old tapestry". (http://www.wafuku.co.uk/kimonoinfo11.htm) 
Husband was very happy to have a birthday present that pleased me so well. I own two old kimonos (yes... one is pink - to be more accurate: rose petal coloured) and they are very, very long. I mean: I am 1.78m = 5.839 feet - so how could a tiny little Japanese woman wear them? Of course with an obi. And than husband and I philosophised on the way women were seen at that time: almost immobilized by the dress (silk is heavy), those Getas (high shoes), and a face powdered to a mask, laquered hair: beautiful and doll-like. But never underestimate women: the Pillow book of Sei Shonagon shows us that she observed a lot, had an opinion of her own, and was really interesting in her thoughts.
(Insight: Fascinating thoughts can be hidden behind a painted face - so don't judge a book by its cover).
When husband described my decoration intention for hanging up the obi, he said to our son -
Yes, yes!: the biggest birthday surprise for me! Son&DiL came to visit us on their way back from Prague: the best birthday present at all! -
"Britta wants to hint at a the impression of a Himmelbett, a word she only can say in English: a four-poster bed." (Not true: of course I know Himmelbett - but it is not exactly the same).


©Brigitta Huegel

When you start to look up things - the history of kimonos, of obis etc. - you soon get carried away and ramble on - so I became interested in the meaning of the peacocks. In Buddhism the peacock is a symbol of wisdom, and they are compared to bodhisattvas because they can swallow poisonous plants without being hurt - as a bodhisattva can take the toxin of human emotions while still attaining Enlightenment.
'In Japan the peacock (Kujaku) is the emblem of love, compassionate watchfulness, nurturing and kind-heartedness.'
Both explanations please me.
A Happy New Year to you, my blogger friends! 
 Britta 


PS: The wonderful little vintage shop in Berlin-Charlottenburg is called "Be A Diva", and you find kimonos, selected vintage and jewellery, and its owner, Michèle Orlia, is a well-known film-make-up artist (http://www.michele-orlia.de/



Monday, 29 December 2014

Today Is My Birthday (Again)


©Brigitta Huegel

I should come to my senses. (Comment: I learned a long time ago that I might replace the word "should" by "will" - (or more often: will not).
I am. All senses. Enjoying and revelling in them, I mean.
But being finally ready to tell anybody my age? No: I keep my mouth firmly shut.
("Why, for heaven's sake?" you might mutter, "It's not that interesting").
Why indeed?
My mother (as Shirley Conran said: "A mother's place is in the wrong") had a very problematic attitude concerning old people - coming from a family of (minor) aristocrats, marrying a man from the working class she might have had her reasons. I loved my charming, lively grandmother (the one with the red blood). So I grew up in ambiguity. The old people were "Them" - a class of their own, born that way. But my grandma was not old in my eyes. And although I knew I would grow old one day,  in my heart I didn't believe it. (Most people don't for their own person: a research statistic shows that the typical woman feels about 18 years younger than she is).
From very early years on I started to collect what I could find about getting older - especially older women as role models. With fourteen I told my astonished girlfriends  "I look forward to being thirty - then I will be able to wear big hats". It is a metaphor, of course (and I pushed the line of years a bit further) for growing up. I envy the fashion of my mother: it allowed women to grow up proudly, and the advertising motto of „Baldessarini – separates the men from the boys“
should/must be coined for women into "separates the women from the girls".
I am glad that fashion this year started to become a bit more grown-up too:

©Brigitta Huegel

But I look into the media, and what do I see? Scorn of older people, amost hate. And it seems to me that the last taboo beside death is (sex and) old age. A society that defines itself mainly through images is shocked. I really considered founding a group "Anti-Discrimination of Older People" - but I didn't because I do not want to get angry all the time - so unbecoming... So I keep the topic private. (Very :-)
From my Prussian mother I learned to love discipline and 'attitude, poise' (the German word is "Haltung", the English pendant might be "stiff upper lip"). I sincerely and deeply feel with everybody who suffers from pain, and I listen with compassion - but I get unnerved when someone is going on and on about trifles, and many women, growing older, do complain about a lot. (Interesting: those who have really reasons to complain about something as a "new" knee or gastrectomy: they do not complain, they are so brave!)
So it is not a surprise that you find me very often among young(er) people. I love laughter more than champagne. (Come to think of it: give me all three - it's my birthday!)
Though - if they are too young - sometimes I get a bit - bored is the wrong word - languid?
I enjoy the company of my contemporaries very, very much - I see beauty in silver hair and wrinkles of laughter around the eyes; I love wisdom and humour, courage and experience in every form - a life well lived. "Seperates the men from the boys"... :-)

©Brigitta Huegel

(A morsel of wisdom in between: the most important aim is that you nourish them (and of course yourself!) well: body, soul and wit).

©Brigitta Huegel

"How Not to Look Old" is the title of a book by middle-aged Charla Krupp (hahaha - I use the word "middle-aged"in the pejorative way, out of sheer spite :-), who dishes out all the old chestnuts that are not true ("Don't wear colours, don't wear too much eye-make-up, don't wear silk stockings" - and always the verdict: "...it makes you look OLD!" Message: "Buy a burka - then you are no longer a rival to us")
My dear: I do as I please.
I don't botox, I don't use fillers or plastic surgery, I don't colour my hair, and I don't diet.. All that is not a question of morale for me - everybody has to find out her own way of what works for her: to feel good in your skin (and soul) is what counts, and this is my way.
I do it without the witch doctors. I eat well and healthy, I do a lot of moving, in body AND brain. I am curious. Am really interested in people and life.
And I feel very, very fine.
But I won't tell you my age.... in the good company of Oscar Wilde:

One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything.”

I won't.        As I told you:  I do as I please.             And this is one of the gifts of getting older. 









Friday, 26 December 2014

Joanne Noragon's beautiful handwoven Etsy Scarves



©Brigitta Huegel





©Brigitta Huegel


This was a very special Christmas gift to myself:
as soon as I saw that Joanne Noragon had opened up her virtual Etsy Shop, I not only liked that on Facebook, but, of course, ordered the only

                    PINK SCARF                                       

instantly. (Sorry Mise, I was quicker!)
It arrived in due time from America, much earlier than I had expected.
And it is oh so beautiful!
And oh so soft and warm - I LOVE IT! 
It has character, is individual, handmade and of visible quality. Already two unacquainted women in Berlin asked me where I had bought it, and I happily gave them the link:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JoanneNoragonWeaver?ref=search_shop_redirect

If you look into that shop, you have to hold yourself back not to snatch a lot more of her beautiful creations! Joanne is a very industrious woman, with many years of weaving knowledge, and you can find the history of that on her blog "Cup on the Bus".

For me the most astonishing thing is that something so beautiful materialized "out of the air": I know Joanne only via the Internet -

but now the link between imagination and touch is there -
something for the senses -

thank you, Joanne!

PS: I add another photo taken by daylight, because above the lamp-light changed the colour of the scarf very much. Since a few years we have an (awful) law in Germany that forbids selling the oldfashioned lightbulbs - instead we have to buy energy-saving bulbs (which kill especially red colours - and people, if they fall down on the ground and break - no joke: they are highly poisonous and can contaminate a whole room). Now the politicians simply want to sneak out of their responsibilty (and the light industry will be even happier than now: another change, more money!) - and we get the better LEDs, not as cold blue-lighted as before (when I bought a LED- lamp at Ikea, I asked for a second bulb - "Oh no, we don't sell them - when this bulb dies after twenty years, you have to buy a new lamp!" Insanity - but eco-friendly (they told us that about the poisonous too).





Sunday, 21 December 2014

I wish you...

©Brigitta Huegel


                      ... a Merry Christmas! 

Dear You,

I choose the pink ribbon especially for you... 
and put into the golden box exactly what you are longing for... 
Happiness, Love, Gratitude, Contentment, Health, Beauty and Wisdom - and a little secret, just for you, you know what I'm talking of... 

Have a wonderful time - you'll hear from me soon. 

Yours truly 

Britta  XXX 


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Already In the Christmas Spirit?

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 

I have to admit that I am still not in the Christmas spirit at all (though Berlin's merchants try to cure me in every possible way - which makes me even grumpier...)
So I made a list of what might help:

1. Drawing or crafting your own Christmas cards.
    Above you see a feeble attempt of mine: Knut, my little red Fiat 500, makes an effort to put a spell on me. I check out the giving-is-better-than-getting-mood - but only for the Christmas Season! - and fulfill his dream: I write his name with "C" (you remember, we live in the quarter with many gay people, and Knut is a bit effeminate, even might insist soon on being called Trans-porter).
And no: the Christmas tree is still in the woods.

2. Buy a Christmas cactus. 
    (Never two: you might find it hard to use the plural)


©Brigitta Huegel


3. Take an evening bummel across the Ku'damm. 

©Brigitta Huegel

You see the smaller one of the two towers of Egon Eiermann, built 1957 as appendix to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächntiskirche, which was partly destroyed in World War II - they keep it that way to remind us.

©Brigitta Huegel


4. And then you can go to Käthe Wohlfahrt - a Christmas shop opened all year round. In the four years we are living here, I hadn't been in once - now I jumped inside (outside we had biting - 3° Celsius, so one can't be too choosy) - and almost suffocated:

©Brigitta Huegel

Sorry - I am not that needy for Christmas spirit - out! out! - it must be the Tower of Babel - so many international tongues, so many hands grabbing what they can get (I've nothing against Kitsch in small portions, it warms the heart - but this is too much for me).

Next time I might show you a few of the over 80 Christmas markets we have in Berlin - that might help even me to sing Jingle Bells....

PS: Hope nobody is offended by my little joke on C Knut - it is approved by my many gay friends who thought it witty.