Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Eulogy For A Tree

©Brigitta Huegel

Since we came to live in Berlin, it was there: the tree in the backyard. 
Morning and evening, 
©Brigitta Huegel

winter, spring, summer and autumn. 

©Brigitta Huegel

©Brigitta Huegel

Yesterday I heard the chainsaw screaming in the backyard. Of course Robert Frost's lines sprang into my mind, but nobody listened when I howled "Out, Out!" -

"The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood, (...)

©Brigitta Huegel

I'm not overly sentimental (I hope), and the renter will have had her reasons (two big branches had broken down over the years).

But I will miss it - it was the nicest sight the backyard had to offer.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

"Half she pulled him, half he sank yieldingly..."

©Brigitta Huegel

(Being always quite shocked by the translation Google offers for our Blog texts, I will try to give you a - hopefully - better version done by myself. Assuming that you are not that deeply interested in Berlin's city views and history, I shorten my German post a bit).
"Half she pulled him, half he surrendered..." (as I put it) is a quote from Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe's poem "The Fisherman" - maybe you like Karl Friedrich Curschmann's (18005 - 1841) version better: "half pulled by her and half sinking himself," he translated.  
If you look at Ernst Herter's bronze sculpture - the title is "A Rare Catch" and it was created in 1896. it stands at a little pond bank in Viktoria Park in Berlin-Kreuzberg. . .you see that in his case it might be vice & versa. (I might even call it "Partners in Grime" :-) , because the mermaid and the fisher look both lewed).
So many German poems and short stories deal with mermaids, and all the other inhabitants of water and sea. I also love Oscar Wilde's story "The Fisherman and His Soul" - where the poor infatuated young fisherman tries to get rid of his soul to be able to live with the mermaid. And of course Frederick Leighton's beautiful picture, or Arnold Böcklin's.
There are a lot of interpretations of what the mermaid might be a symbol for - very famous is Carl Gustav Jung's "Archetype" with the devouring part of mother&woman - I would like to discuss it, but two day's ago was "International Woman's Day", and so I follow Hyacinth Bucket's (pronounce: "Bouquet") advice: "Leave it, leave it, leave it..."
The mermaid, not having a soul, is the eternal seductress; brilliantly depicted in Gottfried Keller's poem "Sea Fairy Tale" (again roughly translated by me):

(...) and kissed him the Red from his lips.
Three days she had diverted herself,
On the fourth she let the dead body
Glide out of her arms.
Then she shot up to the sunny light
And looked over to the shore;
With purple she made up her white face
And sang while drawing closer to the shore.

Not the nicest way to see women. (I might even be tempted to talk about Jung's "Shadow" now).
And not a good foundation for love... but to make a sacrifice of one's soul is also not a good option. To open up the heart: YES - let him/her in. To warm the other with one's love: YES. But don't take away the air to breathe, or the water to swim in, the elements which the other person needs to exist (but you don't, and might not even understand) - they should be accepted. How many people sacrifice their friends, their originalities, their aims when the lover just whistles once... One shouldn't: otherness is (and remains) tempting.
Otherwise it might happen that our dear prince of poets, J. W. v. Goethe, hits the nail right on the head again with another line of his poem: "and never was seen again." He speaks of the poor sinking fisherman - but we might take it as a metaphor for one partner devouring the other, wanting the sacrifice of his soul - and I know quite a lot of pairs where just that has happened.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

At the Bottom of the Treacle Well...

©Brigitta Huegel
Dear You,
Yesterday I made a few finger-exercises, wrote a blog post, then went to bed without publishing it - a good idea, as I saw when reading it again in the cool morning light (yes, it was early).
At the moment the morning air often has a very refreshing and cooling effect on my ideas or worries or projects I developed at night.
Normally I sleep through. Not at the moment, though I tried to follow all those well-meant tips from health-gurus for getting the sleep you NEED: the word alone makes me fret - can't sleep worrying about the amounts of sleep I NEED - yes, scientists explored it for the umpteenth time at a university in *** - though to read their simplistic stats MIGHT make me sleepy and drowsy, - better than a cup of Horlicks + the added bonus of Barbara Pym. (I like her - don't misunderstand me - but I find her very soothing too...)
There is a lot of dry humour in her novels - but maybe not everone will see it - as Tom wrote in a comment on my comment on innuendo (my sort of) - he said that maybe Google can't understand it (or were it the English men? Can't remember - but no:  that can't be, as extensive field research by Dear Me showed in clear results: they Do understand. So he must have meant Google).
Being quite chirpy at night, I feel like Lewis Carroll's Dormouse in daytime. Maybe I'm a victim of "spring fever" - is that the medical term - or is it "springtime lethargy"? (Too lethargic to look it up).  Lethargy, I feel, is right here, cuddling me in his soft grips - though spring is still nearing. The air changes: some soft notes lure and purr under the crispy cold in the morning, and the singing of our alpha blackbird is getting even more combating and challenging.
Well - I think I shall publish my blogpost quickly. Now. Otherwise - if I sleep about it over night, the cooling effect of the fresh morning air tomorrow will nipp my Darling Buds of May again.
Well: we only have March. Might go to a Mad Tea-Party. Visit the March Hare.
"You might just as well say," added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, "that 'I breathe when I sleep' is the same thing as 'I sleep when I breathe'!
"It is the same thing with you," said the Hatter, and here the conversation dropped (...) 

PS: "You shouldn't make personal remarks," Alice said with some severity: "it is very rude."
Right she is...

Saturday, 21 February 2015

"The Kennedys - Timeles Fashion Icons" in the KaDeWe

©Brigitta Huegel

You see it at one glimpse: These are The Kennedys
We have an exhibtion now in Berlin's KaDeWe (= Kaufhaus des Westens, founded in 1902, with 60.000 square meters shop floor the biggest department store in Continental Europe. And just around our corner...). 
No political themes are touched - but that would be unfair to expect from an exhibition with the title "THE KENNEDYS. Timeless Fashion Icons." 
"The Kennedys" here are just the couple John F. and Jackie Kennedy (though the exhibition organizers sometimes quite surprisingly talk of "Jackie O."). NOT surprising for the KaDeWe: the subject is Fashion. Huge grey moveable walls in the entrance hall form an open cube, in which the new Armani collection is sold. 
On the enclosure walls the black-and-white photos are presented (the original photos are in the private 'Museum The Kennedys' - surprise again: I did not know that Berlin has such a museum). 
The legends under the photos are beautiful, but not easy to read, they glitter golden at knee's-height, so you have to do a bit of aerobics and take-off your sunglasses... (though, if you don't want to be outraged by the many comma faults: keep them on...)  
What do you think of when you hear "Jackie O."? 
I think: Pillbox hat, huge dark sunglasses, A-line - in one word: elegance. 
Some facts are quite interesting - for example I did not know that John F. wore - different from other chief of states - single-breasted suits, his suit jackets were without a vent, had small soft shoulders and were strongly tapered/waisted. Also new for me: he wore silk ties in "American stripe-direction" (my strange translation) - they go from below right to above left - contrary to the British style, where the aristocrats wore ties with stripes from below left to right above and sneered at the copycats from America - till those changed their design in the Twenties.. 
Jackie loved Givenchy, Chanel, Dior (he invented the A-line) - but, after Pat Nixon said in 1960 
"I like American designers, I think they are the best in the world", Jackie switched to Oleg Cassini - an American, because she wanted to please the American voters. 
And her 3 strings of pearl were made of glass - 6mm and 8mm in diameter - the wealthy society then loved those pearls, easier to buy and more even than real ones.  
Both Kennedys loved the Ivy League style when in private - when Jackie met John the first time she had short cropped hair - "the Italian cut" - but the voters and the press preferred the "Bouffant" (which in the Fifties originally was designed to counteract the huge petticoats). 
And she had to wear a hat - thus she needled the pillbox-hat on her hair - because John hated hats. Which infuriated (and finally ruined) the American hat industry - they slid into a sales crisis (which Jackie should heal...) 

So: if you are near the KaDeWe - have a look! 

©Brigitta Huegel

Monday, 16 February 2015

My German Blog

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
sorry, I was a bit lazy in the last weeks. Not really lazy - I had a lot of other things to do - but even my best friends in "the real world" had to wait for my (long) e-mails. 
Now the first thing I've written is a post - in German. I had almost forgotten that I have a German blog - - but I remembered it two days ago when I had a really charming experience while wandering through Berlin. And suddenly I knew that there exists a word for the way I discover cities and towns: "flanieren" - it might be translated as "to stroll about" or "amble along". And that word I chose as title for my German blog.  
Oh - translations: I saw what Google offers you when you choose "translation" for my German blog - oh my... Better to do it myself (roughly). 
I wrote: 
'Today the sun is shining, though still a little bit timid, and in the afternoon I sit on my balcony, in one hand a mug of tea, in the other a book by Franz Hessel, written in 1929: "Spazieren in Berlin: Ein Lehrbuch der Kunst in Berlin spazieren zu gehen', ("Strolling about Berlin: A Guide (or textbook) to Learn the Art of Strolling About Berlin") - the title was changed in 1984 to "Ein Flaneur in Berlin". 
My balcony is already planted with early flowering plants: tiny daffodils, a few yellow pansies, and topiary rosemary, thyme, laurel and sage (on little trunks). These little trees led to a discussion with an interesting (unacquainted) woman, who was torn between gardener's greed ("they are dead cheap") and prudence ("it is still too early"). She decided upon reason. 
I don't want to be reasonable anymore. At least not with tiny things - and often also not with big ones. 
"Strolling about" also doesn't follow reason. 
It is what I do for years: in London, where I don't give a damn about beautifully bound city guidebooks; in Edinburgh where I fell in love with the city while I drifted around; in Hastings, washed up like Robinson Crusoe, and where everybody asked: "Why Hastings?" 
If you do 'flanieren', there is no "Why?
One just meanders along. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Lost in a Cloud...

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 
"It's a sign!" a friend of mine said, "a sign for something new and utterly adventurous that will happen!"
Well - one might see it like this, though I'm not that far advanced in Positive Thinking - will need still two more days at least to see the silver lining on the horizon, where maybe (maybe - well, they are talking of a cloud, aren't they?) all my telephone numbers are feeling free, absolutely free to dance a dance of joy... incognito...
A few days ago my Galaxy SIII smartphone was conking out. Of course it is a shere coincidence that the contract with O2 ended two months before that... and The Youth (I'm speaking of my son) said: "What's the matter? Two years and two months - that's a good result!"
"Oh aye" I answered, seizing the opportunity to drizzle a bit of Detective Superintendend Andy Daziel's Yorkshire utterances into the conversation. See, I'm still Old School (at least in the section durability of consumer goods - hahaha: there still exists the synonym "durables", if I am not erring.... hear my bitter laugh from Berlin...).
Of course it is absolutely my fault that I did not save toutes les telephone numbers by copying them into - another - cloud.. And all my SMSs are lost!!! And it is very, very disturbing that I cannot find the address-book that I have ... somewhere...
At least I kept my mobile-number. But - new smartphone in hand - I pondered by whom the SMS was that I had got (without a name at the end!) -- a very interesting text, but I know two persons who might have been the sender - and one of them I do not want to encourage - so I answered very neutrally back --- ending with the hilarious question "Who are you?" (True story!).  
(Well, it was the right person - at the moment I am grateful even for little favours).
After rummaging through a few drawers I found an older address-book from Hamburg.
It contains about two-thirds of my numbers.
I had to calm down and remind myself that normally I act on a maxim: when someone calls me on the phone and I do not want to be disturbed at that moment, I think: "If it is important, the person will call again."
Up till now they do.
Or, as an old count I know said so derisively to a host who interrupted a conversation with him to hurry to the telephone that rang: "You let yourself being rung?" (Oh - that's a horrible translation - the meaning was: like a salesperson the host ran to get his orders).
Very Old School, that count - but it has a ring to it... 

PS: And why is the new vocable I just learned in my Italian class haunting me? It is the wonderful word the Italians use for "scrambled eggs": uovo strapazzato - stressed eggs. I it's only the word "strapazzato" that seems so appropriate now -- and the saying: There is no use to cry about broken eggs - oh no: that goes: No use to cry about spilt milk. 
Ah - whatsoever... I think I'll make a pan of scrambled eggs.... 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

“I have patience in all things – as far as the antechamber.” Gustave Flaubert

©Brigitta Huegel
“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time” Lewis Carroll  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass 

Dear You, 
sometimes I have to remind myself that I have been a gardener.
Created and maintained a big garden in Hildesheim for 19 years, and a small one in Hamburg for two years.
So I am used to rhythm, used to the abundance of summer and the scarcity of winter.
But in a big city it is easy to forget to listen to the fainter sounds, or to rest your eyes by looking at a grey sky with its hundreds of nuances (or only one). Not easy to stop running around and just sit down - trying, at least for a short time, to do nothing.
Berlin emits the Winter-Blah. Cloaked itself into a grey shroud, sacrificed its last jewels, a chain of has-been Christmas trees, that filled the streets and alleys like a far stretched green band of wounded nature, to the busy binmen.
It is cold outside, but it is not "the real winter" with its vibrant blue sky that makes you giggle and fills your lungs with fresh air and then, coming back from a walk through the countryside with glowing cheeks and frozen fingers you tuck in a warm apple pie where the apples melt in your mouth, the velvety fragrance of cinnamon wafts into your nose, and you start to sip from a hot mug of tea - and I feed you tea and oranges, that came all the way from China - and then you sit content in a huge armchair and read your dear Pushkin or just dream a bit before a crackling fire in a fireplace (that I don't have).
No - lets face it bravely: the party is over.
Good!- time for a rest. Time to set one's things in order. Make plans. Order the tiny bags of seeds for the coming year:  this ones will - hopefully - bloom into a slender campanile in Italy, these will disseminate in abundance like a chain of Brandenburger villages, with endless fields of yellow rapeseed, and if you are lucky some tiny plants of friendship and love will grow up into solid trees, but that, dear heart, will take some time...
As everything has its time, we know that. We just have to hold ourselves back not to scratch away the earth that protects what is growing in secrecy underneath - just trust, it is there, growing stronger every day.
In the meantime: slow down a bit. Accept a - seemingly - plateau.
And look: though the black silhouette of the tree in front of the balcony still hums a monotone winter song, the sky wears a dashy pale pink today.
And that has its beauty too.