Britta's Letters from her life divided between city-life in German's capital Berlin and life in a Bavarian village

Saturday 27 July 2013


Britta Hill

I am almost well again, though still a bit unusually silent. And when I speak, my voice gives Zarah Leander. 
I love the heat wave we have at the moment - today Berlin simmers in 34°C, tomorrow they predict 38°C. I can enjoy it because I don't have to leave the house (though I do). 
I slept for almost two days in fever, and then had to rest a while in bed, and thus had lots of time to look at my long white curtains of white Swiss muslin swaying in the soft breeze; the vine on the balcony behind them printing hushed grey patterns onto them - beautiful! And while I looked long and dreamily I found out the secret of the long, long summers I spent as a child. 
It was the bulk of time we had - time in which we hadn't much to do. Not much distraction, not much choice, time was very uniform, and so it stretched. 
In the book "Endangered Pleasures" Barbara Holland starts her essay "Spending the Summer" with: 

'I am the resident curator in a small but eloquent museum of the way people used to spend the summer up until, to pick a rough date, 1981.' (...) 'Exhibits include parts of a croquet set, a first-edition Scrabble, the hook in the porch ceiling that used to hold a swing, half-a-dozen decks of cards and a sack of poker chips, three badminton rackets, (...), the complete work of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, and Charles Schulz, (...) a tin box of dried-up watercolours (...) 
People, even friends and relations who once spent large chunks of their summer here, gaze around in awe. "We must have been bored to death, they say. "I can't believe we stayed here for weeks and weeks. I'd go crazy here in three days." 

Nowadays, Holland says, most people make weekend-trips, not long holidays. But: 

 "Weekending degrades the whole concept of summer. Weekends we can take in any season, summer needs time. (...)
Slow the pulse. Summer is cumulative and needs to pile up, attain a certain mass, at which point the days stop being days and melt together to become a place, a self-contained, motionless country wholly set apart from time and containing within its boundaries all summers past and future. "

She gives quite a few good reasons for the change - and I agree with her analysis that society demands that "now our small available free time should be spent in the most strenuous possible activity (...) We're not sloshing aimlessly around in the swimming pool just because it's cool and pleasant; we're swimming laps, counting as we turn."

I don't, these days. Don't watch TV, don't party, read a bit, take a nap, look at my veiled windows, listen to the birds, water my plants. 

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Note to garden lovers:

Revised post: " At the Wayside" on

Monday 22 July 2013

Feverish Swan Walk, SW 3

Britta Hill

The last two days I slept and slept, due to my feverish swan-throat, and in my dreams I walked about the Albert Bridge a hundred times (now you know where I lost the 1000 grams of precious Me :-)
When you walk on after leaving the bridge you come to Swan Walk - and that gave me the idea to pin your attention to Sue's exquisite blog - you'll see (and hear) what I mean.
Though: 'Invective against swans' I am not:

Britta Hill

and I would spread my wings to fly as quick as I can to this house, would they offer it to me...

Britta Hill

Sunday 21 July 2013

These boots will nNOT walk for a few days!

Well, the shoes with the little wings on it have to wait a while - I am ill!
For over 7 years I didn't even have had a cold, though - or: because - I rode almost every day with the tube, that toughens your immune system.
But now, suddenly - whamm! - I have a laryngitis that makes me ask for forgiving of all those people when I thought: "You make a big fuss about a sore throat." I am really quite tough in enduring pain - after my Cesarian the nurse scolded me: "You don't have to give the hero-mother here, not taking any painkiller." I squeaked: "But I will breast-feed!" (which I did), and then came Dr. M.-M., luring me: "I'll give you something very, very special - very, very exquisite." (I was a bit disappointed when it only made me see vast fields of red poppies then, so realistic my mind seems to be even when caught in the soft clutches of opium - sorry, but I did NOT find the gist of a breathtaking novel.
So: I was raised the Prussian style: "Don't make a fuss!"
And I am not old enough (and hopefully will never be) to indulge into the meticulous vivid graphic nasty details of illnesses a lot of people gleefully try to outdo each other with.
But believe me: on Monday I was felled like a German oak - though that image is wrong: when yesterday fever started I lost 1 kg weight over night - now I am more like Kate Moss - 59 kg for 1.78m is not what I would call obese - so: I was felled like a birch. Can't speek. (Very unusual for Hans). I try not to swallow (that works longer as one thinks!)
In short: I feel like I imagine I will feel when I'm 107 years old, my mood corresponds nicely to that dire state, and languidly I fall on the sofa when I moved from the bed 'to get a little exercise'.
What were always the encouringing words of my father?
"Ill weed grow apace" (in Germany we say: "Weeds don't perish")
A Quantum of Solace, that is.


Wednesday 17 July 2013

My Website

Britta Hill

"You've got legs", said 'my' soldier from the Royal Hospital Chelsea when we had changed Email-addresses and he looked my website up on his smartphone. 
"You bet", I answered, "otherwise I wouldn't stand here in front of you."  
But over the last year I came to a decision: there is a bit much of "legs" on my website, though, as my temporary model jobs, they sometimes convince TV people that they can 'show' me. The last time they took test shots was a few weeks before my stay in London this year - which then got in each other's way, and I've still not decided whether that was luck or misfortune: I would have been the moderator of a mild form of "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!" - only applied to 'men that can't get moved to fulfill their household tasks'. Of course they had difficulties to find those men (willing to show up) - but they got loads and loads of letters from complaining wives, mothers and girl-friends... That sort of show will pick extreme characters - and to convince those to work would have been my part, together with household-education in practical form, plus evaluation of their progress. When I close my eyes and see a real slob like Onslow in 'Keeping Up Appearances', it makes my 'loss' easier. 
If you want a glimpse of my website as it is now, look at under my real name, Brigitta Hügel: 
I think the headlines are not really user-friendly, the list of the books I wrote or translated is not complete or not wholly translated for the English site. In the new version I will exclude my old (private) blogs from Hamburg and Berlin. The photos are mostly two, three years old, with the new one from April 2012 when the translation of the Leon bakery book appeared. The address in the end is an old one, for good reasons. 
But the main motive is: I want the site more austere. 
We'll start the change in August, so I am still interested in good ideas, and thankful for suggestions!  

Monday 15 July 2013

Blue Gardens

Britta Hill

The only delphinium which won out against the slugs this year - and there weren't that many -  is of a pushy sky blue. I would call it neon-blue if it exists as a plant colour. Or glazed-tiles-swimming pool-blue. It is not disturbing, but it looks artificial.
"The world is getting bluer every day" is the headline of one chapter in Karl Foerster's book "The Gardens' Blue Treasures", and he is right: the domineering colour among pink and violet-blue now is blue: the delphiniums, the many sorts of bellflowers: clump-forming Campanula 'Jewel', the vigorous Campanula portenschlagiana or the rampant, spreading Campanula porscharskyana, the balloon flower Platycodon grandiflorus, and the big peach leaved bellflower Campanula persicifolia. Add blue lobelias, the last of the blue irises, blue lupinescornflowersflax and pale blue Veronica gentianoides. At the wall of the house Clematis x jackmanii starts to open the first four leaved flowers, velvety dark blue. As I planned it climbed into the vine and replaces the annual morning glory, although substitute would be the wrong word: it is something so quite different: deep dark night-velvet versus tender moon shimmering light.

Britta Hill

Of course my garden is not an ocean of blue - that I would think too monochrome. (I am also not really in love with 'white gardens' - I liked the one in Sissinghurst very much but would never try to imitate it - even if I could, which I can't).
Delphinium is praised by Karl Foerster most profusely, and he was most famous as a breeder.
And he was a linguistic bard - the German words he invented for his failed experiments of breeding are highly amusing: there are the Straw Fire sorts, the Sun Wrinklers, the Gap Panicles, the Frost-Endangered, the Leaf Invalids, the Ugly Witherers, the Scrooges, the Highwaymen (lying in ambush), the Miller Lads (suffering from powdry blight) and the Candle Flexers. My tile blue delphinium evidently belongs to the highwaymen: it got laid by the rain, and only the lupines on the other side of the path give it a little footing.
I love the enthusiasm and powerful eloquence of Karl Foerster, although when he gets into ecstasy he sometimes overshoots the mark. So he seriously suggests "pure blue animals for the garden".
"The peacock is a surprising garden jewel", he harps. That may be so, but when I was in England, I thought its voice even more surprising, very very loud and not that melodious to my ears. That is not mentioned by Karl...
But he alludes that a peacock sometimes bites into the skirts of the ladies, and thus he advises terminatory: "Who acquires a peacock shall demand a philogynist."
My profound experience tells me: A man who is vain like a peacock seldom is a philogynist - more often this seems to be an oxymoron, a contradiction in itself...

Saturday 13 July 2013

Abundance, Chaos and Being able to let go

Abundance, chaos and being able to let go  (July 2010, revised) 

For a lenient gardener like me it is not easy to decide when abundance changes into disorder or chaos. You know that moment when a strawberry suddenly becomes too dark-red, tastes musty and almost bitter?
My garden seems to have reached this point: everything overflows, it becomes too much. The plants begin to shove each other away. Start to strangle themselves. So I grasp my garden scissors and thin out the jungle. Old man's beard simply does not belong into my wrought-iron rose obelisk. And the wild dog rose neither - her sister may stay in the juniper hedge, but in the obelisk she shall not tread on the silky robes of the more elegant rose Ladies.
How come that for 16 yearsI  believed that Vita Sackville-West, in whose garden many plants foam over the borders, was a person who wasn't fussy in the garden? I thought I was a lenient soulmate when I removed the ground elder not instantly. To my surprise I now have to read in "Even More for Your Garden" (1958) that she liked the ground under her plants "flawlessly neat and clean". I almost felt fooled when I read: "To sum up, what have I said? That I like a tidy garden innocent of ugly or invasive weeds." 
                                                Where is my hoe?? Out into the garden, where the ground is still a little bit wet!! Murmuring "neat and tidy" under my breath like a mantra - and the ground elder stares at me in dread...
Conclusion: in the garden I have a problem with 'letting go', as the Buddhists say: I part only reluctantly. But it is necessary. Sometimes the same applies to human beings. Sometimes you have to liberate yourself from a very needy person, who never understands your (more or less) clear hints for a decent breathing space: that person entwines around you more and more, strangles you with pessimism and hysteria - a field bindweed of the worst sort. But when you feel that it threatens to kill your roots you finally have to be able to cut yourself free.
Then you'll flourish, bear buds and blossoms and feel overwhelmingly full of energy again.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Iwan Odartschenko and the Memorial in Berlin's Treptower Park

Britta Hill

Two days before I read in the Berliner Zeitung of the death of Iwan Odartschenko, I had asked husband to  come with me to Berlin's Treptower Park, where I had last been with my parents and our East Berlin friends when I was seven years old.
After leaving the S-Bahn and walking a while through the lovely Treptower Park, we saw a huge marble arch. "No", I said, "that's not what I remember. It was much taller, and there was a statue, and I had to mount many, many steps." "You were smaller then", husband gently reminded me. We walked through the Arch. A long shady avenue led us to a huge semi-circle with a white statue of a woman in the middle.
                                          And then, when we turned, it took our breath away:

Britta Hill

A long, long avenue, double poplar-lined on the outsides and weeping birches at the inside rim led us to a symbolized gate, formed by two monumental lithic flags, under which two soldiers bent their knees in mourning.
When you walk through that gate of honour, the grounds even increase the impressing view, of which my camera is not even able to give you a hint of the extent:

Britta Hill

Maybe this photos from the official show-case will help:

                                      Over 7,000 Soviet soldiers are buried on this cemetery.
"The ensemble is dominated by the main monument on the opposite end: a hill with a mausoleum supporting a bronze statue of a victorious Soviet soldier."

Britta Hill

I could show you a lot of impressing photos I took: of the white sarcophagi at the sides of the cemetery, the marble inlays of Victory Laurels, or the mausoleum. If you are interested, please look here at Wiki's link:
Iwan Odartschenko, the Red Army soldier who modeled for the Memorial, died a week ago at the age of 86. The artist Jewgeni Wutschetitsch had discovered the young soldier after the victory of the Soviet Army in occupied Berlin. The monument was inaugurated on May 8, 1949, the fourth anniversary of the end of WW II.
What impressed me was the dignity of this memorial, and also how the artist had chosen nature to support and symbolize the atmosphere of the whole place: the weeping birches, leading (and mirroring) to the lowered flags; the rows of poplars (nobody of the official show-case writers seems to have noticed that they look like the marching soldiers on the sarcophagi):

Britta Hill

Britta Hill

In war, that you can see clearly, a single life is nothing. But this place of memory, built for "honoring the victors as heroes and liberators", as the official text tells, shows more:
it might be that my eyes of a woman made me see the other part of the story that the artist showed, but not the official text:

Britta Hill

when you come back from the monument of the hero, you can't but walk directly back to the woman - 'Mother Homeland' - a mother, or a lover - sitting very alone, sitting heartbroken, bent and weeping with grief, having lost her son or her lover forever to eternity - the hero is unreachable for her.
And I, feeling forelorn and very, very small, look up to the sky.

Britta Hill

Monday 8 July 2013

Dream - Cars and 'Useful Pots'

"You know", asked my new friend, the soldier from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, "you know how we call people like you?" "No?"  
"Petrol-head, that's what we'd call you. Very unusual in a woman."
In my life I had so many cars that I can fill long winter-evenings with their stories. The silver Lancia Beta 2000 I loved most - more than the Audi 100, or the big Volvo limousine or the Volvo Kombi, which superseded the second red Lancia (in the meantime I had become a mother and behaved properly - no more races with daft Alfa Romeo drivers who always underestimated the potential of my Lancia, ha!)
But my dream car - as I told you - has always been a Jaguar. Not Inspector Morse's Jaguar Mark I (almost impossible to get), not the Jag E-Type (oh! oh! - saw a sky blue dream dream yesterday), but the Daimler Double Six.
And I found it: Black. With cream-white leather seats. Top condition. Fair price - affordable luxury. ("And", said my son, "you don't drive much, so the 21 liter fuel it needs in the city won't harm you.")
Oh, I already saw me wearing the little lapel pin my friend Anne had given me for my birthday.
And then it happened.

"(...) he didn't look where he was going ... and suddenly he put his foot in a rabbit hole, and fell down flat on his face. 
Piglet lay there, wondering what had happened. At first he thought that the whole world had blown up; and then he thought that perhaps only the Forest part of it had; and then he thought that perhaps only he had (...) "(...) And where's my balloon? And what's that small piece of damp rag doing?" 
It was the balloon!  

I did something I should have done a long time ago.
I opened the door of the dream car (what a sound!), I climbed into it (heaven!) I looked into the rear-view mirror (yes! it looks divine on me). I looked again, with driver's eyes. And saw: NOTHING.
Rectification: I saw the contour of the back window.
Only the contour.
Now you know: this Jag is 5,148m long. A driver who isn't able to park that car properly in a narrow city is for me the epitome of ridiculousness.
I know when I am defeated.
But thought that it was salt in the wounds of my bleeding heart when son texted me an SMS: "Buy a Mini!" Sarcasm in the very young - so unbecoming! :-)  That was error no. 2:  he (previous owner of two Pontiac Firebirds) meant it.
"It is a nice, easy city-car", he told me.
I am able to learn from my errors (hopefully) - so in Berlin you could see me yesterday driving a rented black Mini Cooper. I'll test it until I find one to buy.
PS: Sighing secretly: the company doesn't let Jags...

Saturday 6 July 2013


"Was du liebst, lass frei. Kommt es zurück, gehört es dir - für immer."  "If you love, let it go. If it returns, it belongs to you - forever." Confucius
I would love to see the original text (and be able to read and understand it). 
The meaning of "let it go" is clear - it doesn't make sense (and doesn't help at all - on the contrary) to try to "keep" someone who decided to go. (I even would put it narrower: when you live with someone, he/she needs this freedom too - "What do you think in this moment? Won't you put on your jacket, it looks like rain" or "I hate that bloke you go to a pub with" gives only one sort of example). You have to trust. I look with mixed feelings of pity, understanding and contempt at the  selfishness of those mothers who bind their sons forever to themselves - poor things, both.  
Freedom enables a person to grow. Find his/her own path in life. You get love and trust back from them - voluntarily. 
A lover you have to let go in full trust if it is over, and if you let them go in peace, you'll have a friend for a lifetime. (My experience, ever). 
Even a friend you have to let go sometimes - suddenly there might be a pause of some years between you - one is having a career, the other raises children, or whatsoever - and then, suddenly, they are back again. 
So - this part of the quote I think I understand well, and try to live up to it. (I didn't say it is easy). 
I have problems with the other part of the quote:  "gehört/belongs" - in my sense of values no human being 'belongs' to somebody else. And to believe that Confucius wrote "forever" - when the 'mantra' of the Tao is all change - is not understandable to me. 
Maybe the German translation is wrong. (The English above is only the mirrored translation by me - maybe there are official  English translations with different content? I didn't find them.) 
But I'm not in the mood to surf further through the world wide web now. The sun shines on my balcony, the swallows cut the sky screeching shrilly, the scent of my lilies is almost deafening  - I drink my cup of tea - 
and let it go. 

Friday 5 July 2013

For garden lovers: new post 'Chance and flower sellers' on my garden blog

Just a reminder (something on my bloglists doesn't work): On  I have a new post about 'Chance and flowers sellers'. Actually I wrote it in 2010 - but then I had the problem with too many photos on Google and deleted a lot - that's why I start to scatter some of my (old, but for most of you unknown ) texts among the quotes and new texts.
You might know that I collect with my camera - among other themes store windows mannequins - the one above I found in Munich on a big fleamarket. The mixture of old-fashioned clothes and lascivious 'shyness' fascinated me.

Monday 1 July 2013

Siamese Cats, Symmetry and Disappearances

In a comment to my last post John Gray remarked attentively: 
                                                 That is ONE. Art Deco cat  
"Potzblitz!", as people around Frederic the Great would have said - or, also charmingly old-fashioned: "Ei der Daus!" (Nowadays even Google says only "Oops!", not even "sorry" - but what can one expect of an institution that - at last in Germany - also doesn't know the word "please"? "Sign in!" they bellow). 
            So: only ONE cat. How could I overlook that? Do I become professionally blinkered? I mean, being deeply involved in Crime TV, of course I know "Silver Blaze" by Sherlock Holmes, the famous short story 

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."[

(Yes, from this short story Mark Haddon got the title "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"). 
So: There is only ONE cat, says John. Where is the other? 
In Germany we have a saying - "He said he just left the house to buy some cigarettes"  wails little wifee - meaning: he will never return - up and away he is, the rogue. Trying to Catch a Carven A?  
Had the cat sneaked away? Applying for  a major part in "A Lady  Cat Vanishes"? 
Our German poet Matthias Claudius has written a beautiful song, "Abendlied" - (see my translation on my blog Britta's Happiness of the Day:
There is more moon, says Claudius, as you sometimes see. 
Or as Shakespeare said:
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
I love Zen. As you know there is a general absence of symmetry in Japanese art. Okakuro notes that true beauty "could be discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete."  
But for the lovers of Western harmony I added the second cat above, symbol of the Egyptian god Bastet
Is it perfect now, John?