Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin
Saturday, 29 June 2013
In this opulent building, Greater London House, the London Kieser weight training center is housed. (Though, before you get envious green eyes like the cat: it is in the basement).
I think it quite ironical that the building formerly has been The Carreras Cigarette Factory - a huge Art Deco Building in Camden. One brand of cigarettes was The Craven.
"The building's distinctive Egyptian-style ornamentation originally included a solar disc to the Sun-god Ra, two gigantic effigies of black cats flanking the entrance and colourful painted details. When the factory was converted into offices in 1961 the Egyptian detailing was lost, but it was restored during a renovation in the late 1990s" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carreras_Cigarette_Factory - it's worth reading!
Well, people changed their minds, and now in the upper stores are media and advertisement agencies.
Back in Germany in a month I will have to make a decision:
my membership at Kieser runs out (I have been there now for 7 years, can do the exercises in my sleep, but get good results. They have only weight training).
Additional I have another membership in a posh fitness club around the corner (you can't go there without elaborate make-up :-) - I used it mostly in winter for running on the cross-trainer, when rain, cold and snow made me sit on the sofa instead of walking through Berlin. This club is an Eldorado for almost everything: weight training, aerobic, large swimming pool, Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates - whatever you want. The fee is much higher than Kieser's - though, if you decide to come in the morning between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. it is affordable.
I got a training in different weight machines there the day before yesterday. Went again today, leaving the house at 9 p.m. Coming back I looked at my watch: oooh - 2 1/2 hours... (Kieser takes this time too, with going there by underground, BUT I can come in the afternoon, in the time when my vital spirits have sunk a bit.
My "prime time" for working (with my head, not 'out') is between 7a.m and 12 o'clock. So - if I come home from Elixia tired, take a shower, dress anew - my first 'best time' is gone. The second one will start later.
They tell you to come three times a week.
And now I have to read "Your gym is punk-ass compared to this in the Ukraine!" Look at those pictures! http://bzfd.it/14ciEq4
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
On the photo above you see what I left when I went to London, to the Chelsea Flower Show: my balcony started to bloom, my roses were in buds, 'Gertrude Jekyll' opening one eye.
I don't show you what it looked when I came back.
But it took me some time - to be exact: Tuesday to Wednesday - to work through 'Moomin Valley's Jungle'. My balcony-sitter - only watering, 'practically' putting all 'things' down on the floor - had left for a well-earned holiday - just before Berlin was hit by a three-days heat-wave (over 32°C) - so first I saw "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" - better: "The Dead, the Yellows, and the Ugly". All roses faded (hope some will forgive me and show up at a little forgive-and-forget party in early autumn). But they live - as the bux, the Japanese quince (well, sort of...), the vine, the morning glory of Karl Foersters house, and a few others.
And a surprise: the lilies from last year are in full bloom (yellow, as last year - but beggars can't be choosers). So: I can put my machete down for a while, rest a little - though it's cold again, and rainy, and I won't sit long on the balcony. As Gertrude says:
"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness, it teaches industry and thrift; above all, it teaches entire trust."
That I'll need.
Sunday, 23 June 2013
Yes, we did it!
I had wanted it so much, to go up the Shard. 310m it is high (though the visitor comes 'only' to 232m high)
The ride with the elevator was not as exciting as I had hoped (you know, I am an absolute fan of the moment an aeroplane takes off ) - no, it was moderate, no tingling in the ears or butterflies in the stomach.
You descend on level 68: a great view from inside through some of the 11.000 panes of glass.
If you climb a few stairs up to level 72, it gets a bit more adventurous: still glass walls around you, down to your feet, but also fresh air and wind coming from above your head - and London looks even more like a mass of tiny toys a child has wilfully thrown out of a box:
In the ample month I have been here in London I have seen so much (even the list of the gardens I have seen would exhaust you!) - my sweet Landlady asked every morning: "What are you doing today?" - and when I told her in the evening what I had done, she often was more than astonished.
For example: the day before Hans arrived I had:
- wandered through the whole (!) beautiful Battersea Park
- crossed the Albert Bridge by foot
- walked along the Thames to the Chelsea Psysic Garden
- and of course visited it extensively (will write about it on my blog 'Gardening in High Heels')
- had lunch there and talked for half an hour with a very interesting couple from Northern London
- then I walked towards Sloane Street, decided it was time for a coffee, and visited The Old Pensioners
- there by chance I met my old acquaintance from the last time, when I had been there with Anne - and he gave me a special tour through the whole building and its surroundings, afterwards we went to a Café near Sloane Street and chattet
- then I went home by bus.
That was a normal day. As in Bath, where I have seen so many attractions.
So: when I leave London, I do it with mixed feelings: I love to be here very, very much. I love the people, who are so friendly and so charming, I love the city, that is even more lively as Berlin, has a more daring architecture, and so many treasures. I was glad to meet representatives of the Old England, and of the Modern England, the mixture of many cultures and different people.
Samuel Johnson said "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
I can't imagine that I will ever get tired of London.
Though - today in the evening, I have to confess: I am a bit tired. Just so, in a normal way.
I will fly back to Berlin tomorrow, and of course I look forward to our home, and my balcony, and lovely Berlin. So: See you there!
Just meet me at the Shard, on the secret platform 9¾ , we'll have only to jump through the glass wall ...
Today was Hans' Birthday - and we celebrated it in London! He had arrived on Thursday, and today, after a wonderful dinner in the Orangerie of Kensington Palace he had to fly to Berlin again - I will follow tomorrow.
The days have been packed full with adventures - and were over too soon!
Thursday, 20 June 2013
First I want to say: I really adore Joanna Lumley!
I LOVED her as Patsy in "Absolutely Fabulous" - so hilarious, so blunt - so wonderful!
Then I loved her campaign for the Gurkhas.
And I think she is a very pretty role models for the "Young at Heart".
But I didn't like her last advert for "In the home with Sky Go": www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLCGphxg6ds
There she is shown as a lovely to look at person - but behaving like a woman of the Fifties.
I don't believe that she (!) all these years had endured to watch (for her: boring) motor races with her husband without going to buy her own television set... And a bigger one as that little laptop she uses in the kitchen!!! I firmly believe that Joanna has what Virginia Woolf called "A Room of One's Own." (And she was not speaking of the kitchen).
But what really annoys me is that seemingly everbody does believe that people, as soon as they become pensioners - and in lovely England they can become that with 60 years, I have heard - get weak in the brain, lose their marbles, suddenly don't know how to use a mobile or computer.
Hey - we are speaking of people who became pensioners - so they must have been working somewhere - and where do you not need a computer nowadays? So: people who where managers, actors, mothers, whatsoever - suddenly are depicted as Rip van Winkle? König Rotbart? Having overslept the technical inventions of the last decades???
"Pretty silly", I say.
You are a great person, Joanna, you are a role model - don't play "Little silly me, not wanting to annoy big mighty husband". You are worth far more than that.
And: Old is not a synonym for stupid.
Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Here in London I found out, that a plan is good - but then one has to be willing to give it up, if necessary.
"It seems to be productive to admit our personal insecurities, instead of merely continuing to pursue the rationalized and standardized approaches", writes the Icelandic artist Olaf Eliasson - proposing experiments as the ideal method for times of uncertainty.
Which I experienced.
How often had I to admit my personal insecurity to find a certain street or building (I will not speak about the different way men and - some, including me - women look at a map - I am only glad that my friend Anne goes unfailingly - AS I - into the wrong direction after looking at a map) - and so I asked people. They were always very friendly and tried to help. Some were so eager to help that they didn't want to admit that they had not the vaguest notion of where that street was - helpfully they sent me into the wrong direction. (And only once I was a bit angry about it, when I schlepped my heavy suitcase the many steps down to the wrong side of the Underground... otherwise I took it with humour - I had time).
Interesting, how many, many people didn't know the church behind the corner of their street, (that was my longest Odyssee, to find "The Browning Room" in the St. Marylbone Parish Church. I saw five churches (!) before I finally was there - then the room was closed.
People kindly took out their i-phones to have a look at the map, that helped a lot. Others said: "Really? THERE is Dr. Johnson's House? Gosh - everyday I pass by it, and I've never seen it!"
And today I was looking for Frederik Topolski's 'Memoir of a century' - and couldn't find it. It was near, very near - I could almost feel it... but not see it. Then it was closed for repair.
So I gave up my plan. And had the funniest and most astonishing walk since long. The beauty of the London architecture is so stunning!
I found an orchard in containers, then a garden project on the embankment,
and then I even discovered a garden that was not on my list: I recommend to everybody who is slightly interested in gardens (and in London, near Waterloo Station) - the St. John's Church Garden! Such a bright gardener, with such a keen sense of colour and plant structure! Utterly lovely!
While I was looking at some mosaic containers,
a very adventurous looking young man came and asked me: "Do you like it?" "Yes!" I smiled. And he said proudly "I made it!" "How wonderful!" I said, and he told me about the project where young people were giving their time to doing mosaics. Just so.
So: I found out: often, when I wanted to see something desperately and had to search for it for ages, it was either a) shut, like dear Topolski, or b) not worth the trouble - as Dr. Johnson's House: I think they didn't do the exhibition lovingly. This is a simple example:
In Sir John Soane's House, they had put a dried thistle on every chair they wouldn't have you sit on; in Leighton House it were cones - here they just took an old string they found in a glass of pickled onions...
The positive thing I found out:
whenever I let myself drift, followed my instincts, joined the flow - I always found something miraculously, ever.
As our famous German plant breeder and gardener Karl Foerster once said:
""Suchet und ihr werdet noch ganz etwas anderes finden“-
"Search - and above all you will find something else".
Sunday, 16 June 2013
An interesting article by India Knight on luxury made me hurry to The Bingo Hall in Tooting earlier than I had planned - I mean: who can afford the expensive life in London for long? I didn't want to be seen in Selfridges - yes, I was there, at The Sales, and at Harvey Nichols and Harrods - crying: "Does my purse look squeezed in this?" (the headline of another article about the frightened middle classes, also in the Sunday Times, by Laura Weir.)
To be honest: most luxury clothes from last season look very much like luxury clothes from - last season. Most of the things I wouldn't have wanted even as a present. My glance fell on things marked "New" - not because 'New' meant 'High fashion' - but because they looked comfortable and warm - they start the Winter Season now (for the first time I thought: How sensible! instead of: How crazy!)
Back to the Bingo Hall. It was opulent - it was awesome!
It was built in 1931 by Cecil Massey in full Art Deco beauty (first cinema under Grade I Listening). .
The interior 'was designed by Theodore Komisarjevsky, a set designer, making use of ornamental plasterwork by Clark and Fenn. It has marble foyers both at the main and balcony entrances, and a hall of mirrors and deep ceilings more suitable for a palace than a cinema.'
Today the over 3000 seats (in Golden Times filled) were empty, and only a few old ladies played Bingo down in the huge ballroom (or whatever).
Did I win? I love mysteries ... by the way: have you seen my new car/yacht/castle and horses?
Oh, sorry: almost forgot about the law lex sumptuaria...
Saturday, 15 June 2013
In the German synchronisation of 'Casablanca', Humphrey Bogart says "Look into my eyes, babe" instead of 'Here's lookin' at you, kid". With my eyes I had a special adventure yesterday, on my way to the Sales. It was very difficult to find Southern Moulton Lane! When I asked a young man if he could show me the way I didn't realize that he was a salesperson - sorry: the manager of a cosmetic firm called Gold-Oro (they might have thought "Make assurance double sure!", or "Even the simplest person will fall for gold + gold.")
I should have become suspicious when he asked me to come into the shop - to look up the address...
Inside he offered me a hand massage - "Look!", he cheered while rubbing my hand with a lotion, "look: such a marvelous result! Our Peeling hand creme is made with the ingredience 'pure gold' - so good for the skin!" I answered testily: "I love gold around my neck or finger - in form of jewels."
"Britta", he said, "but you know the best thing you can give your skin? Gold! Ah - which skincare do you use?" "Shiseido." "Good - very good - but you know: We sell ... Luxury!". He told me the price of the 'Luxury' - for one eycream they wanted 500 GBP!
"But it will last for two years!" he said - forgetting that just before he had told me it is not good when skin 'get used to a cream like Shiseido for a long time.'
He was not only very talkative, very beautiful and touching me all the time (I thought of the Moomin-figures called "Klippdass" in German Moomins - they leave little sticky footprints wherever they go) - no, he knew every trick in the book. He even invited me to holidays in his house in Israel!
When I announced that I had to go now he became imploring, and started to haggle like a carpet dealer.
Can you imagine: I would have got that wonder cream - but only NOW! that offer would be only valid if I buy NOW! - for a paltry sum of 200 GBP - and when I announced my leaving again, he added a facial 'for nothing' that normally would cost me 85 GBP.
One characteristic of mine is that I can be stubborn as a mule. And I am not daft: I have written a 250 page manuscript on beauty and beauty products. And I am schooled in negotiation too.
So I tapped him on his arm, looked as deep into his beautiful eyes as he had in mine, and said - as he had done: "Love - you are such a charming man! I'm sorry to disappoint you - it hasn't be your fault, you were very good - but sorry - I have to go now." As I saw his crestfallen face I added soothingly: "Maybe I think about it all and come back."
He said: "In the next life." Then he laughed.
Which showed me: he wasn't daft either. And a good guy, underneath the salesperson.
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Anne and I liked visiting the Chelsea Flower Show so much - so why do I write so late about it?
We were lucky: on Saturday the sun shone. Masses entered - and no: we didn't see so many hats as on this picture:
To be true: we didn't see any hats - though no umbrellas either. But lots and lots and lots of people - two third women, I guess, sometimes with a tired, helpless husband in tow. "Ah! Look! There! Wonderful! Beautiful! Oh!" So many people were there that sometimes you were just able to take a photograph - and look at it at home! ...
First there were a row of theme gardens - some good, some kitsch - and a lot of stalls for buying something:
The Big Tent: an abundance of flowers, people, colours and scents. Here three examples in pictures.
I really, really enjoyed it - but you know: I am a (disciplined) Chaos lover, so I have to confess that I prefer a "living" garden or park. Here in the Show everything on display was oh so perfect, immaculate - it made me think of the old Zen story, where the Master told his pupil to go into the garden and take a rake and do away all the leaves from the maple that had fallen onto the gravel. The pupil worked till everything was immaculate. Then the Master came, looked at it, shook the bow of the maple, and a few leaves fell on the gravel.
"Now it is right", said the Master.
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
Can you believe it: today I've met HRH Prince Michael of Kent!
I was seeing (professionally for my book: Inspector Morse and Hercule Poirot have an episode playing in this building) an exhibition in Freemasons' Hall in London. This imposing Art Deco monument was built in 1933, and the United Grand Lodge of England is the governing body of Freemasonary of England, Wales and the Channel Islands.
Today a big meeting took place - you saw a lot of distinguished gentlemen in elegant black suits. Thus we were only allowed to see the remarkable exhibition in the library instead of getting the (free) tour round the building.
But by chance I found a guide: a lovely, very well-informed man who showed me around, and when I asked him he admitted that he was a Freemason himself, and so I learned a lot. In one display cabinet he showed me "the Lewis" (I instantly thought of Inspector Morse's sidekick) - an implement used for lifting heavy blocks of stone. It is inserted into the top of the stone and signifies "strength and is the emblem of the eldest son of the mason. When conjoined with the Perfect Ashlaw it symbolises the son supporting the parent. "
The Freemasons do not advertise or make proselytes: you have to ask to be allowed to become a member. And - that was new to me - you can be of any religion (or none - as long as you believe in a Higher Being). I knew that Catholics for a very long time were forebidden by the Pope Clement XII to swear the oath of Freemasonary - if they did, they were excommunicated.
I love the little stories.
In 1730 the German Catholics who intended to join Freemasonary but were not allowed created 'The Order of the Mopses' (Mops is the German word for the dog 'pug' - that was their symbol - and because they had not to swear an oath the Catholic Church could not excommunicate them.
Another very interesting story:
In 1934, soon after Adolf Hitler's rise of Power, the German Grand Lodge of the Sun in Bayreuth recognised the danger to Freemasonary, because the Nazis hated them and confiscated their property. So they elected the 'Forget-Me-Not" in lieu of the traditional Square and Compass emblem as a mark of identity for Masons (...) - throughout the wholeNazi-era that little blue flower marked a Brother.'
By the way: there are Sisters now too - though in different Lodges.
While the visitor told me these and other interesting facts, he suddenly draw me near him and bowed his head; I thought: 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do' and followed: HRH Prince Michael of Kent, who is the current Grand Master of the Mark Master Masons had entered the room, followed by two High Masons, and he smiled at us, then disappeared in the Grand Hall.
For more information see: www.freemasonry.london.museum
Friday, 7 June 2013
Can you imagine that in the short time I have been here in London I have visited Hampton Court twice?
First with my friend Anne, with whom I visited the Chelsea Flower Show, and then with Louise, my Facebook friend from Dover. Both times were so fabulous!
Of course coming twice did not escape the attention of Henry VIII - and so I met him in the courtyard. In his youth, they said, he was a beautiful man "with a very fine calf" - most important in those days, because they wore silk stockings (see, Tom: he wouldn't have faced any problems at the security control of an airport). We pondered on the role of women, marriage, love, faith and politics in those days. I don't envy them!
The weather was quite up and down - so at first we could throw only a few longing glances onto the gardens outside.
But then - lucky us - the sun came out and we really raptured. I have many fine photographs, also from the little Tudor Garden, but I will not bore you (more than I do by my daily 'telegrams' from London :-)
We admired the Great Vine, planted in 1768 for King George by Lancelot Capability Brown. The plant in the hothouse is incredibly huge, and even up until 1920 the (numbered) Hampton Court grapes were only for the Royal Family.
And behind these gates the Thames, "The river glideth at his own sweet will" - as William Wordsworth said in his poem 'Composed on Westminster Bridge'.
For information see: http://www.hrp.org.uk/hamptoncourtpalace/