Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Ranting and Raving, fottuto!

©Brigitta Huegel

It is very early in the morning. And very, very stormy.
I hear the ceaseless screeching of rakes outside: two men in orange are trying to catch the autumnal leaves - and we have a lot of them in (very) green Berlin.
"Hohoho!" cries the wind, preparing for Christmas. He thinks it very funny (sorry - as always I take "it" personally), he blows forcefully into the little heap of yellow leaves one man had - screech! screech! - scraped together. "Hohoho! Catch me if you can!"
They can't. But they try on and on.
Why do I tell you this?

At the moment, I'm deeply annoyed with my teaching book for learning Italian.
(Did you know that the Italian word "noioso" means "boring"? See it in 'annoyed'???)
It is NOT that la bella lingua bores me. Oh no.
I am a diligent pupil.
I take notes - every day! - when I do my compiti (every day!), my (volontary) homework.
Friday: 8:30 - 10:30:15.
Saturday: 9:30 - 11:00
Sunday: 8 30 - 9:15 (+ 15 minutes)
And so on, and so on...
Till now I had two (rather expensive) semester-classes by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Berlino. I paid for the third - it started when I went for a week to Rome.
BUT there I got a sort of shock - what I understood I had known before I entered the first classe.
My textbook calls itself proudly "Chiaro!" meaning: "Clear" - hahaha.
I thought. Pondered. Decided - in absolute clearness - to repeat the second class.
Decided not to blame me (I am a quick me-blamer, but also a quick learner, even at my age :-)
Decided to blame that daft textbook, written by absolute nutters. Greedy nutters (in this aspect they are very "Chiaro". I got that insight when I bought the extra "Neue Power-Grammatik", the extra "Neue Übungsbuch", the extra "Power Wortschatz" and the extra "Große Übungsgrammatik" - all by Hueber-Verlag, all at least 15 Euro or more -- and learned by myself - it all became a little bit more "chiaro").
In classe, the main aim is to speak. From the very first day. That is fine with me, though I loathe exercises that ask: "Guess what this might mean. Write it down. Then: discuss it with your neighbour. Then we will snigger at you: hahaha - you got the plural WRONG! (Of course we didn't tell you anything about the plural - we thought: even singular might overexert your little brain - that's why we also don't tell you l'articolo neither, hahaha. Yes, you are right: it is VERY important, l'articolo - without knowing it grammar is like skiing on thinnest ice - you look like a mangling fool, haha - what, by the way, you are, in our opinion..)
If you think that I exaggerate - what do you think of these (true!!!) first vocables in Lesson 7 (mind: we didn't learn many words to help us in ordinary life - la vita quotidina:
lo sci estivo = summer ski (haha: I even don't do it in winter!)
la buca = here (how I hate that, here means: ONLY here, normally something else, haha): hole
l'alpinismo = mountaineering (OK - when I visit son&DIL in Allgäu, I will look up to them and cry: "Attenzione! Mountaineer carefully, please" - while, at the same time, rummaging desperately through my brain, I look for the word "hear" ("sentire/ascoltare" - thank you, deit.dic.cce).
l'equitazione = equestrian sports. (Good for England, I know, but before knowing that I want to be able to say "bevanda" - drink).
il parapendo = also a very valuable word - if I, one day in the future, want to start paragliding. Who knows? I might! (Really!) While I will abstain from "la pesca sportiva", sport fishing, definitely.
But: if I do my summer ski and fall into a hole, maybe I'll do sport fishing there, hoping a paraglider comes and rescues me...
Silly, silly, silly! 
I think one has to learn grammar (they think they overextert us with that, too), vocabulary, reading and writing. And of course start to speak.
For that they also gave us CDs - I would like to include a passage here, but I will protect your ears, the howling wind is enough rumore: the speaker tries to IMPRESS us poor pupils
, by speaking as quick as he can, so quick that he absorbs part of the words.
Mind: I have been in Rome, and yes: they speak very quick, BUT not as quick as the speaker on our CD, hahaha...
See why I howl with the wind?
Seee why I screech???

Friday, 30 October 2015

How to Stay Slim on a Full English Breakfast

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
what do you think: will this title allure masses to my blog and thus raise my Stats?
My waist survived not only many Full English Breakfasts, but also a lot of tests of hoppy, fruity craft beers and loads of fish and chips too.
The secret? The godsent antidote?
That was our friend Mark Hanna. May I quote:

"Mark Hanna is co-author of our cruise cookbook, Greens and Grains on the Deep Blue Sea, and head chef for Holistic Holiday at Sea (...). Mark began his education in macrobiotics in 1978, and started cooking throughout North America at macrobiotic centers and summer camps, yoga retreats, Buddhist retreats, and natural food restaurants and cafés. During that time, he developed a creative approach to the normally austere macrobiotic cuisine. In addition to serving as the head chef on Holistic Holiday at Sea cruises, Mark travels throughout the world, cooking for events of all sizes."

Mark cooked for hundreds of people on cruises, so our narrowboat's tiny kitchen (which here looks tall - a well-known phenomen to all those who ever booked a hotel-room) - was no problem for him at all.

©Brigitta Huegel

He was helped by Christian, who had learned from Mark to cook the macrobiotic way - and their dishes were so utterly delicious that we all - all the men & I - never missed meat or cream or whatsoever then.
We lived on a 2:1 - diet: 2 parts full English, one part macrobiotic.
So I think The Secret is alternation:
Matti sat in a fish and chips restaurant with a plate filled with half of the allowed fishing quota of the North Sea - in batter - saying: "This is what I call a correct portion!" - but then, another day, we all enjoyed our greens and miso and tofu (dressed up as meat. That is one thing I cannot understand about vegans: why do they try to form deceiving sausages, shrimps or burgers from tofu? Why not just call it 'honest tofu'?)
Well - I'm no vegan. Though I almost (!) became one when in Beamish I met this utterly friendly pig -
©Brigitta Huegel

He leaned over the garden gate in quite an elegant way, swaggering a little bit on his tiny feet, blinking blue eyes under blonde eyelashes benevolently and trying to make friends with us - an effort which toppled him almost over that garden gate...
Back to diet-secrets: you can get away in life with quite a lot, I think - as long as you a) enjoy it with all your heart (and stomach); b) know your own limit c) enjoy change and d) do it in style.
Style for fish & chips you see on the first photo of this post - taken in Beamish, the exciting open-air museum.
At the end of a long walk through pictorial English history (and a side trip into the sweet shop)

©Brigitta Huegel

©Brigitta Huegel

I entered the museal fish and chip restaurant - on my own, my friends sat outside on the green, testing another fruity hop brew.
Inside a young lad asked what he could give me, and I said: "Nothing , thank you - I just want to look at your wonderful Art Deco fish and chip machine."
"Oh, but you MUST try them!" he cried out, "I'll bring you some for free!"
A deep voice from an elderly colleague came out of a corner "THAT  you have to accept - THAT he is not doing for everyone, love!" 
So I tested them - wonderful!
And we started to talk shop, about those fascinating Art Deco machines, and the very crisp chips:
"They remind me of some chips I got in Hastings", I said, "and their secret was the special fat they used... let me think: lard, it was." 
"Yes yes, he cried, "that's what I use here too!!!"  
So: choose quality. Don't overdo it. And enjoy.

PS: Next post I'll try to start from the beginning of our narrowboat trip :-)

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
inspired by Rosemary's blog "Where Five Valleys Meet"  and the first of her gorgeous photographs I 'republish' a little story from my garden blog "Britta's Gardening in High Heels". (The next post will be on the narrowboat).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I sit in our garden in Hildesheim with a cup of tea and enjoy the sparkle and twinkle on the silky threads of the spiderwebs, glistening against the sunlight. When the air moves, silver and gold flash up.
Horizontal nets are spanned in the big box ball standing beside the rose arch, looking like miniature versions of the Olympic stadium in Munich
Delicate silver gossamer, elfine trampolines. 
They are better visible than the golden spider-webs that hang between the rose-twigs. 
When in the morning hundreds of dew drops hang inside them, drawing the spider threads down like heavy jewellery and throwing out sparks in the sun, they could jauntily take part in any contest of jewellers.
Yes: Today I’m having Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
For that breakfast the spider is waiting, too, though for her a less sparkling day would promise more booty. 
Nothing is so finely spun/ it will come up into the sunlight” wrote Theodor Fontane in “Under the Pear Tree”. 
But sometimes The Good needs a lot of time to triumph, and before the victims have discovered the gossamer it is too late for some of them: the sticky threads attach themselves around delicate wings, and by attempting to flee in panic they only entangle themselves deeper, till finally the Master of the Web puts an end to it all.
Then we have to grab the last relic of resource, then we ask for the word “Existence”, I hear from the terrace of my neighbour, the philosopher, who apparently is dictating an essay, just as I indulge in profound reflections upon Elusiveness and Beauty. 
The spider and I are eavesdropping - mesmerized.
“ We can turn towards the entities, die Wesenheiten, the things that ARE”, he continues, and the spider hopefully picks up knife and fork, “but then we have a problem.” 
Confused the spider drops its cutlery, because till now it didn’t have one.
How do we ascertain wether the entities are real or not?
This, my good man, the spider giggles, is very easy indeed. And bites into that, what still Is - but will have Been very soon.
The nature of Being”, “the Concrete”, “the Abstract”, all these words flutter airily past my ears, lightweight as spider threads. 
A little bit sticks, but you cannot grasp it… 

Friday, 23 October 2015

Do not block!

Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
I must have got that wrong.
Saw this 'Writing on the Wall' on our narrow boat trip, when we travelled for one week on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, and then drove with a van up to Newcastle, Durham and Edinburgh.
"Do not block" - today. when I sifted the 1235 photos from our lovely, lovely tour I saw my mistake:
error - so I am allowed to blog on!
I am also very thankful to Susan who writes the blog "Southern Fascination" - she shook me up by a recent comment, asking: "So, Dear Britta, has the traveler made it home? You are missed."
That touched me. I thought of an well-known Zen-story, where a learned man travelled a long way to meet a Zen-priest, to learn even more about Zen. You know what follows: the monk pours tea into the cup of the guest, and pours and pours. "But can't you see that the cup is overflowing!" cries out the guest. "I know", answers the monk, "so is your mind - you have to empty it first to be able to receive more."
And boy: my mind was overflowing with impressions. The chip card of my camera was more carefree - almost 3000 photos it filed without grumbling - having accompanied me
- two weeks through England & Scotland
- followed by a wonderful week with friends in the Imperial Spa Bansin at the Baltic Sea, and then
- in an impressive week at Rome, together with husband.
So: my cup was more than full. Full with the lovliest Darjeeling, to stay in the picture, but nevertheless: overflowing.

But you know me: I never am quiet for long, and I am a roly-poly doll (no, I didn't gain weight - though the many "FullEnglish breakfasts" tried their best,

Brigitta Huegel

as tried the many, many pubs with their special craft beers - our navigator Matti is a specialist for these arty beers, and finds always the right smashing pubs:

Brigitta Huegel

Brigitta Huegel

and then a London friend, an editor of a big newspaper, joined us (among other lovely people) - and he was a beer expert too; he had written a blog on craft beer with a title like "Through the Year with 365 different craft beers" -- well, and then imagine me (if I drink beer at all, on a hot summer day, it must be a wheat beer):
I will be remembered as the Little Red Rooster - oh no, sorry, I was the only little hen of that party, who always chirped "Only half a pint, please", while the male world bravely tested the hoppy, fruity goods,
But we tested the spirits of culture too -- and enjoyed a lovely landscape (and astonishing good weather), we made music, and visited really impressing cities -
and I promise: I will show you a glimpse of that - pint by pint bit by bit in my next post.
And I will try to dive deeply into your blogs again - of course with better results than the poor guy who one early foggy morning fell into the canal just in front of our narrow boat - nothing happened to him, the canal was shallow, but police and ambulance came nevertheless and helped him - though we had already given him a blanket and the very British panacea, the universal remedy:
a mug of strong, sweet hot tea.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Harris said, however, that the river...

©Brigitta Huegel

...would suit him to a "T."  (Jerome K. Jerome)

Well - it did in 2013 on our last narrowboat trip, though as in 2013 husband will stay in Berlin and guard our flat: he doesn't feel comfy in a narrowboat, being 1.98m tall.
For compensation we will both travel to Rome later.
Now I'm looking forward to our next narrowboat trip - different crew (not all artists this time) and different route. We will add a week with a car, visiting Durham, Leeds and Edinburgh.
(About the date of the new trip I will speak when I am back - I don't want to invite people from the Wild Wood).

Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that's always changing!” (Kenneth GrahameThe Wind in the Willows)

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Poem - Handed on a Silver Platter

©Brigitta Huegel

I love the drawings of the Fifties, and sometimes, when I find a book on the fleamarket, I buy it - not because of its (sometimes quite silly) content, but because of the little sketches - so light, so happy, so carefree.
Of course I should add an illustration here and now - but I am to lazy at the moment to pick up my camera.
So I'll try to translate a little bit of a text from Anton Schnack (an author rightly forgotten by now; drawings by Max Schwinger) It is called "Flirt mit dem Alltag - Flirt with Everyday Life", which leads us through the year.
In August I found this sentence for the travelling gardener, which made me wonder:

"Also forgo on early apples and early pears voluntarily: they will be picked unfailingly by free-roaming lads."

Written in 1956.
Well: in the last decades I didn't see any lads nicking apples, or plums, or cherries.
Must have gone out of style.
Maybe it is the fault of the so-called helicopter-parents, hovering over their only child, driving it to violin- and Chinese-lessons - no time to roam through the neighbourhood.
Or fault of the supermarket - everything is there on the shelf.
I remember my astonishment when we still lived on our little island in Hildesheim that people didn't even take home plastic bags of already picked apples that somebody had kindly put in front of her garden gate. Maybe nobody knows how to make an apple pie anymore? Or doesn't care, being bone-idle, as Onslow in Keeping-up Appearances would say?
Well - if no lads had wanted any apples or pears ever, we would never have gotten Theodor Fontane's beautiful and wise poem, written in 1889 and still read today (if this doesn't impress you, maybe this will: "In 2007, the original manuscript of the poem was sold for 130.000 EUR at an auction at Berlin.):

Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland  (rough translation by me)

Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck in Havelland: 
a pear tree in his garden stood, 
and when the time of golden autumn came, 
and the pears shone far and wide, 
then, when the clock chimed from the tower at noon, crammed  
the von Ribbeck both his pockets full, 
and when in his pattens came up a lad, 
he cried out: "Lad, do you want a pear?" (this is in dialect, can't translate that
And came a girl, he called "Little dear, 
come over, I have a pear!" 


Well - after his death his stingy son greedily protected the pears - but the old von Ribben ("von" means lower gentry)

but the old one, already anticipating, 
and full of distrust against his own son, 
he knew exactly, what he did then, 
when begging for a pear in his grave, 

You guess it: after three years a pear tree grows from the grave - serving pears for free.
Oh - come to think of it: a lot of things have changed from 1889:
- children prefer pineapples to apples 
- dialect is often extinguished 
- wooden pattens aren't worn anymore - they are replaced by plastic clogs 
- and if old von Ribbeck had offered his pears to little boys or girls, the stern members of child protective services would have cast more than one suspicious look at him. 

PS: the silver-plated fruit basket I found on a fleamarket too.

 ©Brigitta Huegel