Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

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...