Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Please, Mr. Postman!

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
Actually I wanted to write a post about "comments".
Now I'm sitting here, caught in a luxurious prison - our flat - and wait for the postman. Will he ever come?
"With the post you never know", said "my" postman wistfully. Strange to hear it out of the mouth of some official - it is true that we had oh so many thefts from parcels and small packages the last years (at least three items I sent were stolen till finally, finally I followed son's advice to ALWAYS send a package (costly) insured).
Our postman is utterly reliable - he is a wonderful young Turk who really loves his job, (and even greets me from his yellow van - by name! - when he sees me in another street in Berlin). They have given him a new route now, sometimes here, sometimes there, sometimes not -  and thus made his job less secure and his smile a bit more worried. I wonder what the Post is thinking of!
Why am I waiting? New job from nine-to-five? Nay - Amzon informed me that my iRobot will arrive today - and that is heavy, I suspect, and if I am not at home and have to go to the post-office to get it, I won't have to go to the gymn today.
Yes, you read right: I ordered a robot to vacuum dear home. I am very curious if that will work (and you know my infatuation with technical gimmicks) - I see me Sitting On My Sofa, feets up, laptop on my knees - hammering a post on "comments" into the keys, while "IT" purrs and currs all around.



PS: Maybe in four hours I will change the song to: "Set Me Free" (I love the Kinks!)


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Down These Mean Streets A Man Must Go...

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
I don't know what I expected when the day after the English Christmas Fair I was on my way to the "Japanese Christmas Fair". Maybe little Geishas folding complicated Origamis? I should have used my brain - I mean: Japan and Chrstmas?? and: oh, Revaler Straße in Friedrichshain - even better known to the police than rough Alexanderplatz...
Fights, stabbing, drugs - "down these mean streets a man must go", to quote Raymond Chandler - well, and in these days: a woman too - IF she wants to find that Fair.

©Brigitta Huegel

From the underground station Warschauer Straße I Took a walk on the wild side - the promised number 99 wasn't to be found, and as I walked on, the area became more and more dreary and sinister,

©Brigitta Huegel

And the Africans, very well fed and very secretive, started to offer me "Tea, coffee or me?"
I wisely refrained from witty answers or taking a few cute snapshots of them, and after more than one kilometer walk along a single (!) wall - beautifully sprayed with graffiti - I muttered unladylike under my breath "Damn, damn, damn - I'll go back."
As the wise Taoists say: the moment I "was letting go", all things fell into place - and I between picturesque ruins and beside a beautiful swimming bath "Der Haubentaucher" (great crested grebe):

©Brigitta Huegel

and a flea-market:

©Brigitta Huegel

Vainly I asked a girl wearing not much more than a Purple Haze if she knew where ??? - but all she could do was to offer me her joint. Felt like the middle-aged woman in "The Knack", when Rita Tushingham rings at a door and cries: "Rape! Rape!" and the lady says kindly: "Thank you, love - not today."
Then, at the very beginning of the Revaler Straße, at my starting point - yes, Buddhism is right: life is a circle, not a line - was the Urban Spree, where the Japanese Christmas Fair was taking place.

©Brigitta Huegel

Mangas, mangas, mangas - nothing else - and they didn't seem especially convincing to me, but then: I am no expert. But nothing "hummed" at me.
So I did that myself, melodiously humming: "These boots are made for walking!" 
And that's just what they did...

©Brigitta Huegel

In my sturdy Timberlands and without getas I was leaving a very lively and interesting part of Berlin.

©Brigitta Huegel





Sunday, 6 December 2015

Some surprises in Berlin

©Brigitta Huegel


©Brigitta Huegel




Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
yes, I was surprised to see this flag in a vicarage garden in - Berlin!
In St. George's Church in Berlin's West-End they held for one day a "Charles Dicken's Christmas Fair". And of course Yours Truly took instantly the underground - in which a lot of men wore white-blue scarfs, fans of Hertha BSC, who yesterday played against Bayer 04 Leverkusen (and won 2 - 1: I heard their singings from the nearby Olympia stadion).
But the little band of the second photo drowned everything. And, as Dame Edna would put it: "I mean that in the nicest possible way."    
Anglican Services in Berlin already existed from the 1830s, but the first St. George's Anglican Church in Berlin was built 1884 by Julius Carl Raschdorff, who went to England to study Anglican churches. It was built on the grounds of Schloss Monbijou,
1888 Queen Victoria and 1913 King George came to visit - and that church was the only Anglican church that stayed open during World War I, because Kaiser Wilhelm II. was its Patron.
In 1944 and 1945 it was bombed by the Allies, and 1945, after the German partitition, the GDR finished it off while clearing away the ruins of Schloss Monbijou.
The little church of today was rebuilt in the British sector of West Berlin and was a garrison church. On the pews you find military emblems of British regiments:
©Brigitta Huegel

1987 they found the silverware that Queen Victoria had endowed - in a cellar in Berlin! Today it is in use again - as the church is, for civilians (and for TV the sermons "Hope for Tomorrow")
                                                I had a lot of fun - the tearoom was overflowing with people, but I found a seat. The Indian lady who sold the wonderful cakes cast one look at my slim figure and decided: "These slices of chocolate cake with cherries are to small for you: I give you two!"
I talked a lot with three "expats" - the 'man from the North' wondered why I visited Newcastle, and the jolly lady laughed "Soon my German will be better than my Englsh" (she was searching for the word "flag").
On the fair I bought German honey - after short consideration I took the one from Brandenburg, not that from the Preußenallee (the street where you'll find the church): Berlin's air is heavily polluted - so I was cautious...
Yes: I'll come back to that church - I want to hear an English Sunday Service, and hope for Choral Evensong.
Promised: I will not only come when my three raffle tickets prove to be winners! (They took our telephone numbers).

PS: A lot of information I got on site - parts I found in all-knowing Wikipedia.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

First Sunday in Advent

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
Yesterday I succumbed at the last minute - I bought an Adventskranz. 
It was rainy and dark, and actually I wanted to buy a pot of Helleborus niger, Christmas roses, though against my better judgement: they grew formidable in my garden-flowerbeds, but on the balcony they always were a disappointment, ever.
But then the price was very high and the quality low, so I abstained and, maybe as a "displacement activity" (as birds do when they don't get what they want - then they do "Now for Something Completely Different"), I bought the Advent wreath.
In former times - when we still lived in Hildesheim and our son was a schoolboy - I often wreathed myself - I loved the smell, hated the sticky resin and pricked fingers, and believed that it was fresher than the bought ones. (Though that was easy - bought ones shed their needles when you look at them. I think that nimble Chinese hands wreathe them in mid-July).
Last year I had bought a brass candlestand with four tealight holders and a smart little modern brass Christmas tree in the middle. That should be enough, I thought. For the heart (= Kitsch) my Christmas cup and a little musical clock should do.
I thought.
Long ago I had decided against a fake wreath - though, for the first time in my life this year I saw some utterly convincing ones. If I want a wreath - and not for religious but only decorative reasons - I want the full monty, meaning: especially the smell.
On the balcony, a long fake fir garland beautifies the balcony trellis - together with little lights - and even I, being VERY scrupulous about form and colour, cannot tell the difference till I touch it.  
                  The "real" Advent wreath shed spitefully a few needles onto our doormat when I brought it in. And as soon as the mist of the rainy dark night had evaporated from its needles, it looked instantly like all the other disappointments of the years before.
I thought about principles.
Will I "preserve" them? As 'preserve' in marmelade?
Or will I shed them on the floor, like needles, next year?
Ad-vent of total liberation?

Now light your first candle, become tranquil, nibble a few almonds and inhale the nice smell of fir needles.
I wish all of you a festive and contemplative season! Britta  XXX 




Thursday, 26 November 2015

Bonds On The Shelf

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
I'm quite proud of the double meaning I put into my title.
"Sitting on the shelf" was a horror vision for girls in former times (though I found out in career advising that even the tough modern ones are still afraid of it - and "bonds" and the stock market seems to many of them more dangerous than an adventurous Bond).
Up till now I have seen very few Bond films. I saw some with Roger Moore (because I adore Roger Moore), and I saw all films with Daniel Craig, because I'm besotted with him.
But as "I don't want to die dumb", I bought now The Complete Bond Box - 23 DVDs (and one empty box for "Spectre", which I have already watched in cinema).
And - being an orderly person - I started with "Dr. No" from 1962, the very first Bond film, starring Sean Connery.
Surprise: I liked it immensely!
And he was a big surprise to me, too: an utterly beautiful man (in my eyes).
Wiki affirms that my innate tape measure was right: Sean Connery is tall - me, being 1.78m, learned quickly to estimate height (I'm also able to fortell with certainty which tiny man will ask me for a dance - there is one kind full of good self-esteem - a lot of them live in Bavaria or in Russia - who take a tall woman into their arms and proudly announce: "All mine!")
Back to Sean Connery: he is 1.86m. Beautiful hairstyle - almost like the heroes of the Fifties - and if there was a toupet, as rumour goes, be it on the head or on the chest, I don't care. Today young men shave off every single body hair meticulously, everywhere - which, of course, I only know by hearsay :-)
What I noticed:
this first Bond-film showed the same frugality as the Fifties were famous for (think of wineglasses with 0,1 litre, think of strawberry punch and small flats) - and Ian Fleming wrote the novel in 1958:
- Bond has only his Beretta - which he has to hand over to M for a Walther PKK - and he has his muscles and his brain. No technical gimmicks from Q. Bond cuts a reed for Honey Rider and himself, to be able to breath under water, when the guards come with dogs.
- The story: simple.
- The Bad Guy, Dr. No,: simple.
- The people of Jamaica: still very naive - to believe in that misterious "dragon" on Dr. No's island you must be able to speak Pidgin English, too.
- The Bond Girl - Ursula Andress - so coy!
Though even she succumbs to James Bond's charme --- and who wouldn't?

PS: Can you imagine that I know a person who was caddie for Ian Fleming? My friend David, a Chelsea Pensioner, told me about his first "job" as a schoolboy  - and Mr. Fleming later gave him a watch as a present!
PPS: the photo I took in the London exposition (2014):

©Brigitta Huegel



Saturday, 21 November 2015

"Your mother called it "doing the pressing,"

©Brigitta Huegel

November - for me - is the excellent month for tidying up, organize, and re-decorate.
For tidying I learned a very good technique from my young friend in Hamburg (he got it from his Serbian grandmother): "If you go from one room to another, always take one thing with you that belongs there!" 
Sounds easy? Then how comes that my drawing box is on the long dining table? Of course: yesterday I scribbled a bit, and then I looked TV, and then it was late...
And yesterdays papers on the floor beside the sofa? Ah, yes, I wanted to cut out an article I might write a blog about (on the day that will never come).
And so on, and so on.
I am now old enough to accept a wisdom of my mother: If the homefront-task does not melt away and will not become less tomorrow - DO IT NOW.
So very often I do that now. BUT: there is one thing I really hate doing. Although I wrote a whole chapter in my book about it, and know how to do it: I hate ironing. Looking the dire consequences right into the eye - look at the advertisement above and imagine the deplorable way your clothes will look if you don't!
Procrastinating I wait for the second load of washing ("Then I will do it all in one go"), and wait for a dull TV-film (but that I silence - and if it is good I cannot watch TV at the same time).
So:
"All Gaul is under Roman control, except for one small village of indomitable Gauls that still holds out against the Romans." 

PS: The title is from the Poem: Ironing After Midnight" by Marsha Truman Cooper





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?
Well...

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???