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. 


  1. I will be looking for Endangered Pleasures.
    I am known in my family for wishing for a little less every weekend - less driving, less partying, less TV. I don't know how anyone manages to read an entire book anymore. (As I read what I've written I see that I am beginning to sound like a cranky woman!.....but indeed, I've always been this way!)

    1. Dear Pondside,
      the book is really interesting (subtitle: "In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences").
      To read an entire book: the attention span diminishes - I heard on the radio today that they cut a lot of board games, including Scrabble and Monopoly, to a third of their normal duration length - people are too impatient now. And that's fact, not nostalgia regret :-)

  2. My dearest Britta,

    It occurs to me that this sickness, this fever that has pressed you into a silent(ish) bed, bears some cosmic importance. Remember the picture you linked for me of Das Eismeer? Surely what has transpired in the weeks since is meaningful, yes?

    1. Dear Suze,
      of course I remember Das Eismeer. I talked with husband about all the things I had experienced the last three years - including the death of both my parents, 3 moves, job changes (which were Eu-stress, but stress)husband's severe accident and other things I will keep private - Hans said I must rank highest on the stress score. For that, I'm surprisingly robust and chirpy. A wayward Taoist as me learns his lessons :-)

    2. Britta, you never fail to inspire me.

  3. Oh show me the way to the next whisky-bar - oh don't ask why...

  4. Dear Tom,
    of course I resist the temptation to ask "Why?"
    The nearest whisky-bar is just 7 minutes walk from here - as soon as I am allowed to drink again, you are invited.

  5. Good to hear that you are almost well again. I was surprised to find out that it is also quite hot in Berlin. It has been around 34~35℃ in early July here but it is about 31℃ these days.

    This lovely post made me feel a bit nostalgic. "Summer is cumulative and needs to pile up,~ and melt together to become a place, a self-contained, ~ all summers past and future. An old country house by the sea -the place I spent my childhood summers- holds the most glorious, golden memories that cannot be improved by time. I miss a lot the small house by the sea.....

  6. Dear Sapphire,
    so good to hear from you again - I miss your posts! A summer house by the sea would be one of my chosen residences - even now, and for the whole year. Could look into moving waves forever, love the salt in the air, the cries of seagulls and changing clouds.

  7. So sorry to hear that you've not been well Britta ........ hope that you are now nearly 100% again.
    .....and, it's definitely the small pleasures that count isn't it ?
    At 62, my attention span isn't too bad ..... I read 4 books on holiday and have just started a new one that has 600 pages !!
    Speedy recovery. XXXX

  8. Dear Jackie,
    thank you! 4 books are an impressing number. I think one shouldn't generalize, as Holland does (in a charming way) the shorter attention span to younger (!) people, being educated to see only snippets on Facebook etc. I know quite a lot of young people who read tomes - but I do join in believing one must have learned it a a very young age.
    I love thick books - and at the moment I alternate between paper and Kindle - a good mixture for me.

  9. What a delightful description of those "crazy, lazy, hazy days of summer". Surely, summers lasted longer when we were children, didn't they? It certainly seems as though they did, just as surely as there are less hours in a day now, which explains why the years fly by ever faster. Although I remember wasting time with my friends as a child with our frequent exchange of, "What do you wanta do?" and its inevitable response, "I dunno. What do YOU want to do?" I don't remember ever feeling bored. Not then, and not now.

    I hope you've in fine voice again.

  10. Dear Susan,
    yes, summer seemed longer - and I really think the secret lies in the unagitated way children spend it. They don't have that pressure inside them (outside it might well have been, parents or relatives calling: Are you ready?), not the feeling that time gets less. One cannot be bored, I think, when one is in the very moment - as children very often are. And those long conversations with friends: glorious!

  11. Glad you are feeling a bit better. The glorious joys of summer as a child....fond memories to be sure.