Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin
Friday, 24 April 2015
In her last blog Mise complained about not getting enough acknowledgement.
:-) :-) :-) (Of course I would prefer little hand-painted periwinkles as on my Royal Doulton to these gross smileys, but on my computer there aren't that many left). In our modern and hectic life I learned that it is a fault not to use emoticons - nobody seems to understand a little irony, especially the British people sadly lack it, though in former times it was one of their most famous literary virtues. (To be on the safe side:
:-) :-) :-)
The Irish people have kept their sense of humour. Especially Mise. See for yourself:
Oh, I got it a bit wrong: acknowledgement she gets, for her academic publications, but not elaborated and magniloquent enough, with far too few adjectives, on the whole far too tight-lipped - "insufficient" in one word.
Maybe you read my post "The Admirer" a few weeks ago - which I sent into the nirvana of blogland for some reasons I will not discuss here, where I spoke about my newly invented profession of "admirer" (well, after that I had some of them in my tows... they reminded me of Major Wilton-Smythe or Violet's husband Bruce. The Major has a way of conducting himself when in my presence that I do not always find helpful to me in my role as hostess. It is difficult to maintain one's dignity, which is so much part of my candlelight suppers, if one is continually being referred to as 'my little minx'.)
Oh yes, it is a fact: nowadays people are praised far too little!
In my old blog "You are witty and pretty" (why did I ever give it up? http://www.youarewittyandpretty.blogspot.de/) I had a sort of column were I acknowledged my followers/bloggers from "The Bouquet residence - The lady of the house speaking".
After that I became lazy with praise.
So I will make atonements here and praise Mise:
I love your blog - I should write "I LOVE your blog", because it always makes me laugh out loud, or at least smile.
Your writing style is as superb as that of the Provincial Lady (whom we both admire), it is not only about keeping up appearances, but also deeply profound.
As soon as your memoir or autobiography is on the market, Mise, I will buy it and put it into my book section: "Improving the Mind".
I mean "it would be entirely wrong of me to limit your social and cultural horizont by letting you know what I read and appreciate. However, since you have asked, I will admit that my favourite authoress is Dame Barbara Cartland. The fact that she has been honoured by Her Majesty to whom she has also been a kind of step-aunt-in-law, has nothing to do with the acceptability of her books, of course. But they are innocent, life-affirming and entirely without any untoward biological detail. And short.
Other aristrocratic authors are less reliable. Ever since I once read something about Lord Byron, which I do not need to repeat here, I have been wary of members of the nobility who write. Sir Winston Churchill is a safe bet, of course. I have a picture of him on my dining room wall. His books were rather long, but entirely safe to lend, even to one's grandmother.
Art is a different matter."
To this delicate topic, might I refer to: http://prettyfarwest.blogspot.de/2015/04/a-cautionary-note-for-all-artists-on.html ) ?
Mise, I'm waiting for your memoirs or autobiography - "let us in on some of your more precious secrets, so that we too will learn how to become the focus of our neighbourhood, and to be considered as central to our own social whirl."
I'm absolutely sure: Your book (served in floral endpapers - I hope you choose PINK flowers!) will be "broadening the mind" - and our smile!
And when the numbers of your sold books soar up to the millions, which they will in a second, I will invite you to one of my famous candlelight suppers, given: "for all those who delight in sophisticated conversation in spotless surroundings with the best crockery and cutlery"
Tuesday, 21 April 2015
Today I feel like the greedy king in the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin.
You remember: the miller, to make that already lovely maid even more attractive, bragged to the king that his daughter could spin straw to gold, and then the poor girl sits in one of the King's big chambers, filled with straw, and can make it only with Rumpelstiltskin's help. But as in most fairy tales once is not enough: three time's the greedy king lusts for more, and each time the amount of straw she has to spin becomes more and more...
And why do I feel like this?
Well, today is the first time of this year that Julia came, Julia who helps me to pretend that it is Me who is in charge of my garden - being the king of the castle, so to speak.
Last year we put up a brave fight against the green weedy members of the occupying forces on the long gravel walks, so I think Julia is now sophisticated enough to become consecrated into the secrets of battling ground elder, which has as many names as rhizomes: bishopswort, ashweed, goatweed, pigweed, English masterwort, herb gerard, and, and, end! - lets do the only sensible thing that gardeners all over the world do when talking to a foreign friend: they use the Latin word, Aegopodium podagraria, and everything is clear.
In the mind - not in the garden beds.
On the gravel walk it is almost impossible to make a mistake, but that is a place which ground elder seldom chooses - no, it prefers the herbaceous perennials, penetrates them lovingly by crocheting its rhizomes deeply into their roots. (It is not for nothing that you speak of garden beds).
That, like a strong spouse, provides it with the best possible protection you can think of.
First I tell Julia that she has to be gentle and careful with the perennials.
Then I show her the other plants that have to be spared - they are almost invisible among the gay green entanglement of bishopweed's leaves, wearing their magic hood on the silver-green lancet-shaped leaves of the faded snowdrops; the dark green spiky leaves with the white stripe in the middle of faded crocuses; the just now unfolding lime green powdered leaves of the auriculas; the pale pink waxen shoots of the bleeding hearts - they all must be lovingly protected from damage, while eliminating bishopsweed thoroughly.
Julia does her job very well, and she tells me that she almost enjoys weeding ground elder.
I share her feelings: when I do it, especially after a light warm summer rain that areates the soil, I sometimes fall into a kind of trance - I am hooked in more than one way, become cunning, hoe into the earth and triumph when I succeed in catching a particularly long string of a sub terrestrial rhizome.
At night after such a weeding orgy it can happen that I lie in my bed, my back hurting like hell, and behind my closed lids I see rows and rows of tiny dark red heads, helmets of an unending army of bishopsweed; I see the Chinese Terracotta Warriors and I feel as deadly exhausted as Qin Shi Huang Di.
There are little triumphs, reminding me that nothing in life is only good or bad: if you have The Knack and neither pull too firmly nor too meekly, you might catch 50 centimetres or more of the rhizome, and tearing it up you gloat with pride and call yourself a Master of the 5. DAN and wrap your Godan around your hurting hips and Julia calls you RHENSHI.
Dream on... - in the end there is always only ONE winner - and that's not I...
Cut ground elder's rhizome with your spade accidentally, and it will behave like Rumpelstiltskin, who out of fury ripped himself in two parts at the end.
See? SEE, gentle reader and knowing gardener, where the author is leading you to? Yes: as a connoisseur you see the Learnean Hydra, raising her nine ugly heads and be sure: you'll always come to the one that is immortal and thus indestructible, and your labour will start again, my dear Hercules.
And why am I feeling like the king in Rumpelstiltskin?
Well: Julia cheerfully worked two-amd-a-half hours in one flowerbed.
But then, when this task is done, and the new day dawns, a glance at the bed behind the rose trellis will reveal another chamber, twice as big, filled with the double portion of straw -- err, no -- a bigger bed, filled with ground elder....
Tuesday, 14 April 2015
thank you for your kind wishes! I am myself again, and happy about that.
The good thing about growing older is, that by now one knows oneself
One of these wonderful stabilising tools are rituals.
"It's vital to establish some rituals - automatic but decisive patterns of behavior - at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way",
writes Twyla Tharp in her interesting book "The Creative Habit".
Every morning I light a little candle on my table, and have tiny fresh flowers for the whee little buddha, and I thank the Tao for being alive. A little bowl on the windowsill reminds me to see my day as a beggar's-bowl: wide open, but without knowing (or expecting) what the day will put into it. (And to clear my mind of too many thoughts and concepts, so that - as in the Zen story - "new tea can be filled in that cup without making it overflow by too much tea that's already in it.")
I once told you that I do not only eat a rich breakfast, every day, come what may (porridge with wheatgerm on it and blueberries, a boiled egg every day, half a grapefruit and a little bowl of cottage cheese and a mug of strong tea - yes, with sugar - and then a big French bowl of hot milk with an espresso in it) - but that I also greet the day - summer, winter, every day: I step on our balcony (which is large and protected by the glass front behind me and 2 walls beside me, and the floor of the balcony above, and I sip my tea, greet Berlin's skyline silently and then look at my flowers, and feed the birds (in summer only with water). I write in my diary, and then I do my version (more correct: my dear friend Stephen Russell's) version of very quick Tai Chi (that takes about 18 minutes) - and than I hop into the bathroom.
Where I remain a while, because an exact Amy Winehouse eyeliner takes it's time :-)
Then I'm ready for the day.
Yes - I am a lark, meaning I get up very early.
The only other ritual in the day is much later a meditation (and one of the three sports: weight-lifting, yoga or walking).
If I still feel under the weather, I try to come into contact with nature or beauty:
- that's why I have subscriptions for museums and the Botanic Garden and photo-galleries.
I draw (wonderful to bring my mind to rest).
Reading poetry, and then getting into touch with my own creativity works also:
I meet people - and talk with them - sometimes with mere strangers who tell me often very interesting things. To satisfy my "wanderlust" in a normal week, I often go by train to a spot I do not know (I have Knut, but I prefer trains to cars when I go on my own).
Sometimes I keep my mouth shut for a while - very invigorating too (for those around me, and myself)...
And the discipline of learning Italian is sometimes like a wonderful "girdle for the brain" - though I might whine and wail that I have forgotten all I learned three days before, and that I will never get fluent in it - I see my
And of course - beside my work - there are wonderful people to thank and think of - and letters or mails to send, blogs to read or to write.
You see: I won't get lost in Alice's Pool of Tears.
I mean: that would ruin my Amy Winehouse-eyeliner -- than I would have to start drawing it again....
Oh no - I feel better this way, quite centred again.
PS: Before you ask - the dog does not belong to me, I saw it and quickly took a photo.
Friday, 3 April 2015
"She did not like her name. It was a mean, small name, with a kind of facetious twist, she thought, about its end like the upward curve of a pugdog's tail. There it was, however. There was no doing anything with it. Wilkins she was and Wilkins she would remain; and though her husband encouraged her to give it on all occasions as Mrs. Mellersh-Wilkins she only did that when he was within earshot, for she thought Mellersh made Wilkins worse, emphasising it in the way Chatsworth on the gate-posts of a villa emphasises the villa.
When first he suggested she should add Mellersh she had objected for the above reason, and after a pause - Mellersh was much too prudent to speak except after a pause, during which he presumably was taking a careful mental copy of his coming observation - he said, much displeased, 'But I am not a villa,' and looked at her as he looks who hopes, for perhaps the hundredth time, that he may not have married a fool. "
You will have recognized it, Dear You: a quote from my annual read of "The Enchanted April" by Elizabeth von Arnim - and of course, though it is quite lovely too, you see at a glance why the film they made of it (and which I watch every year too) cannot transport a quarter of the wit of this novel.
Elizabeth von Arnim was a writer who wrote lots and lots of books - which, at their best, were as entertaining as enlightening (she wrote trash too).
I love all the characters: Mrs. Lotty Wilkins who often "sees" something which later really comes true (we share this virtue); Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot - with the face of a sad madonna - is a bit far from me, as is Mr. Briggs, but the old cranky Mrs. Fisher is wonderful. Till she comes to San Salvatore, she prefers to live in the past.
"Carlyle had had scowled on her; Matthew Arnold had held her on his knee; Tennyson had sonorously rallied her on the length of her pig-tail. (...)
Indeed, she seemed to think that they also were widows, for on enquiring who the fourth lady was to be, and being told it was a Lady Caroline Dester, she said, 'Is she a widow too?' And on their explaining that she was not, because she had not yet been married, observed with abstracted amiability, 'All in good times.'
(...) 'Did you know Keats?`eagerly interrupted Mrs. Wilkins.
Mrs. Fisher, after a pause, said with sub-acid reserve that she had been quite unacquainted with both Keats and Shakespeare.
But (of course) Lady Caroline Dester is the one I'm most fond of!
She is tired of social life and of men, who all want to possess her, grab her.
(...) she had wasted all this time being beautiful. Presently she wouldn't be beautiful, and then? (...) to become inconspicious, to fade, to grow shabby and dim, would probably be most painful. And once she began, what years and years of it there would be! Imagine (...) having most of one's life at the wrong end. Imagine being old for two or three times as long as being young. Stupid, stupid. Everything was stupid.
(...) If nobody at San Salvatore had ever heard of her, if for a whole month she could shed herself, get right away from everything connected with herself, be allowed really to forget the clinging and the clogging and all the noise, why, perhaps she might make something of herself after all. She might really think; really clear up her mind; really come to some conclusion.
Of course they'll all do - I see it!
Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Today I have been - for the first time in my life - at a stockholders' meeting. Because: I found a new motto for 2015 in an interview with Juliette Greco, who explained something extraordinary she did by saying: "I don't want to die stupid".
Nor do I.
So - normally abhorring and avoiding any meeting in my agency if ever I can find an excuse - I accepted my invitation by Daimler for their stockholders' meeting - in Berlin, served on a silver tablet, so to speak.
In the S-Bahn (parking places are rare) I looked around and spotted a couple that looked as if they were going to attend that meeting.
I was right. They were - and they looked like it.
I looked very posh, too, but as ever a bit - different - with black Lagerfeld half-finger kid-leather gloves (very sexy), a wonderful slim rasberry-red jackett, a huge black patent leather bag that Kate Moss had promoted, black denim jeans, and a lot of eye-make-up, as ever. (Come to think of it: THAT , Dating Agencies, is a market to chase potential husbands, much more promising than the macramé courses at adult education centers. Though sorry to say: most of those evidently rich blokes were not the type I prefer - I have a faible for - well: different men. And: I am happily married. AND earn my own money - such a luck).
(Feel forced by a rather previous incident to add a footnote: please: I don't want to have to despatch this post into oblivion too, just because one follower or another doesn't see my winking eye, so:
:-) :-) :-) = smiley, smiley, smiley!
When I went into the big assembly hall, I had the feeling that thus might look the hall of Scientology - I mean: as I think it might look, I've never been there.
Big, big screens on the wall. Very uplifting music. Very beautiful people (in the film, not in the assembly hall - beside of me, of course, and a few young men who might be students of economics, and a few young girls who had to lead people to their seats. Having worked in my student days as translator on fairs and exhibitions, I know how much your face hurts in the evening because of the permanent smile one has to put on (and the hands of old man off), and I learned one very important thing: Never wear new shoes when you are working on a fair - they will kill you...)
In front of the huge screens sat tiny little men (the supervisory board).
7, I counted, but one of those little men was a woman, but I could not identify which... Later, when people - we were always addressed as "owners" - were allowed to put questions, a female professor asked: "Why is only one women in your supervisory bord? Our aim is to have at least 50% women there". Though I agree with more women being there, I found "at least" a bit disturbing - and very optimistic. And girls, you have to prepare for a hard, tough fight to get there: when I heard what those board members earn in one year - I realized: "I'm in the wrrrong profession". This insight comes a bit late, but maybe they are searching for a woman to fulfill their "Frauenquote". I will volunteer. And promise to attend to every meeting :-)
Till they ask me: I take the liberty to walk away after half the meeting (oh yes, I had a nice snack, and: oh yes, I voted).
Their new cars: absolutely beautiful. Never owned a Merc myself. (But a beautiful Lancia Beta 2000).
Humming: Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz. Prefering Janis Joplin, but could only find this:
PS: Oh... I lost by accident all the interesting pictures I took today of the stockholder meeting - all the beautiful cars - from my smartphone - vanished into haze...
Sunday, 29 March 2015
AGAIN!!! It happened AGAIN! I didn't grasp it - the change to summertime! Though I had your interesting English mnemonic - "spring" and "fall" in mind.
Yesterday I even got a bit angry thinking (in advance) of it; being an early riser I thought: "Then it will be even earlier when I wake up". To my surprise it wasn't. Hahaha.
My little error in reasoning is why I didn't warn Husband, who had booked a berth in a sleeping car to go to Munich in the night from Saturday to Sunday. (He left from Hildesheim, I was sitting in my haziness in Berlin). But - being a man - it was all clear to him and he left in due time, without any channelling by me :-)
This morning (almost in a hurry - because it was - surprise! - one hour later than expected - but then: it was Sunday) I thought of former times, very far back, once upon a time, when due to the change to summertime I arrived to leave at Heidelberg station in wrong time. Errrgg sorry, shamefully I have to correct: "Twice upon a time..." And did I learn from it? Oh no, not I...
It is the same as with directions, but there I am not alone: my friend Anne - and many women I know - each time walk to the left when we stand in front of a station and our map pretends to direct us to the right. (I even invented a map for women - I mean: if I hold the man-made map upside down, it works... But then came Google-map, so I am still not rich).
Oh - Yes: I am able to learn very complicated words in Italian, as "frigorifero" or "abbassamento in chiave" (sometimes I even suspect that this 'abbassamento in chiave' might be the reason why I can't grasp the right direction) - but maybe, I think, the very reason for my summertime-change-blackout is that I am just utterly unconvinced that summertime change is necessary or helpful... and then I get stubborn... which is so utterly idiotic...(come to think of it: as is that change to summertime).
Alas! you know me, dear friend: I always make the best of it...
So I congratulate myself on being ...
Sunday, 22 March 2015
Since we came to live in Berlin, it was there: the tree in the backyard.
Morning and evening,
winter, spring, summer and autumn.
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, (...)
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.