Tuesday, 29 July 2008

It was a 22C warm night tonight, I cycled home from Gast where I had met up with two ex-colleagues from the magazine we all worked on together, before it went belly-up. I see them, like, every three months or so, their children a few inches taller, started walking, going to 9th grade in school. Both are passionate mothers and passionate working women, both struggling in a good way.
C. is 35, her son only three. Her bloke - husband - is incredibly bright but can't get a job - too bright maybe, so she is the reluctant breadwinner. S. is 45 and a single parent, her daughter 14, they are very symbiotic. I have seen them go through dramas and changes of schools, now they seem to have reached a happy peaceful space. I come away thinking how different we are and how well we like each other: after we all lost our jobs in late 2004, we kept meeting up once a month for breakfast, supported each other, shared all sorts of information about unemployment, all three of us ended up going (state-supported) free-lance, the two of them ended up with jobs in publishing again, me returning to my old London employers as a freelancer.
I felt very free when I cycled home with only myself to worry about - if I am broke, so what. I am of the lucky counter-culture generation who knows no shame about accepting handouts from the state. My generation is terribly maligned now (sour grapes, I reckon), but without us, I was thinking as I cycled past Königsplatz with the open air cinema, people might not be sitting in the middle of the road, laughing about a silly German film.
Just to jog your memory - Hitler built this square for troup paradings. Now it's grassed over and a place where people turn their faces to the sun.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Art, Partying and Summer

On Friday, I went to see the "Female Trouble" exhibition at the Pinakothek der Moderne - fotos, paintings, installations by women from Julia Margaret Cameron to contemporaries like Cindy Sherman, Tracy Moffat, Sarah Lucas (below), and by some men who want to be women. It was all rather heavy and suffering, two of the artists have died young and somewhat inexplicably. The work I liked best was a video by Pipilotti Rist about dealing with anger. It was actually funny.

Now, it is finally warm enough to take off the socks at night. Washing dries in no time on the balcony. I go swimming every day (after spending time at the hospital with my Mum, who is fine now), and I am getting a tan.

B.'s birthday garden party last night was not rained off for a change, and a roaring success. They got a bit carried away and organised a mini-festival with African drummers, a bouncy castle, a belly dancer and Capoeira performers (magic!).

There was also a free bar from whence 15-year-olds, and myself, carried off gigantic Caipirinhas. Anna and Fionulla came from London, adding a further cosmopolitan touch to the Brazilians, Egyptians, Africans and other nationalities represented there. It was the best summer party this side of the Channel I have ever been to.
Today was predictably slow and hot, a swim in the local pool (with a very elegant nudist area, behind thick wooden fences), and a cycle ride to the Botanical Gardens to show M. the flowers.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Poems about hesitation


I cycled to the Botanical Gardens again, and I had an epiphany: I am allowed just to enjoy beautiful things, like this sea of summer flowers. And the quiet buzz of a garden.

I know, it's probably old age. When I was young, sex pretty much eclipsed everything, and now, frankly, I don't give a damn.  
To be honest, taking pictures of the water lilies is probably just as exciting.

This is what Thomas Gray heard and saw:

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds

(Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard)

Now here is what Goethe wrote (in a poem every schoolchild of my generation knows by heart - at least the first verse): 
Über allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh',
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest Du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur!
Balde
Ruhest
Du auch.
(Ein gleiches)
Here is how Longfellow translated it into English:

O'er all the hill-tops
Is quiet now
In all the tree-tops
Hearest thou
Hardly a breath;
The birds are asleep in the trees:
Wait; soon like these
Thou too shalt rest.

 
Hello flowers, hello life, hello the sounds of silence!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Coffee to go

I am a bit of a saddo when it comes to coffee, I actually like my filter coffee. I detest the new "single-serve" pods from Nespresso and the Senseo coffee bags etc they are just a big marketing rip-off plus laughably un-green. My morning coffee of choice is nice strong filter (from a big pot for two) with loads of whirl-pooled frothy milk.
 
In England, the cafetière now rules in the homes of my friends, but unfortunately most of those fair trade coffees from the supermarkets are pretty nasty. Every café and pub in the country now seems to have some form of coffee machine, and once in a while, you can get a decent cappuccino that is not buried under layers of horrid chocolate powder.
On the Isle of Wight, once we got a cappuccino with a sailing boat drawn in the froth - I have to admit, I was a little bit charmed by it.

Monday, 21 July 2008

International Food

I lived in Spain and discovered that I had high blood pressure - ironically, this was when I had the healthiest life style in years - walked everywhere, lost weight, used only olive oil, ate loads of fish. English food used to be the stuff of nightmares, when I first moved to London the only edible food was Italian and Indian (and before I get any protests - I was never privy to posh English country house food which I am told has always been eminently edible - the pies, the roast beef, the puddings etc.). I learned to like peas in England, though.

And there is something nostalgic about sandwich triangles and soup with a roll...


Of course, now England is the home of some of the best cooking and at the forefront of foraging for weeds and wild mushrooms - incidentally something that people have always done. Only now it's posh to eat samphire and porcini. My aunt and uncle used to empty the woods of mushrooms in the old days.
Eating out in England is a marvel now. Check this:

Bavarian food has been the cause of many a heart attack, but has recently lightened somewhat by using oil instead of lard for cooking and adding green stuff to the plate. Also, you are now able to get the odd dish that does not contain meat which is not omelette.
MANGOLD LASAGNE - CHARD LASAGNE


Thursday, 17 July 2008

Stuff about being on buses


Life seems to be taking up all my time (I read this on a postcard in England, and bought it, of course). it feels like I am running slightly behind all the time, and still haven't had time to go to the swimming pool and tan my hide. One day of sun and last night I cycled home in the pouring rain. But it was summer rain!
Today I went to the office that sorts out pensions, to sort out my pension. Naturally, this does not come naturally. In London, I travelled on the 41 bus with my freedom pass, and suddenly it felt like I was time travelling, like that thing they do in movies where someone sits there, old, and suddenly the screen goes foggy and you see them young. And I saw myself travelling on that same bus, which goes between Archway and Crouch End, where I lived and most of my friends lived, as I was then. Young. Strong. Wanting to know everything, try everything, fiercely a (Bavarian) Londoner. Always having half-baked affairs and cool love storiesm buying wholefood bread and drinking sweet liqueurs. Going to gigs, and working right in the heart of where London was happening. And it seemed impossible that I was there with my bloody freedom pass.
Because, just like all my old friends, and like my mother: we are just the same as always.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Blue and green and wet and sunny

Two weeks in England: I slept in my home from home in London, and in a very small bed in a very grand house. I went to a festival in Finsbury Park, an all-night party at probably the last communal house in London, and a wedding in Kentish Town. I stayed by the sea but never had a swim, I was taken into the woods to friends' caravans, I saw more rain than one can imagine, and also some sunsets. I loved London and adored the Isle of Wight. I discovered how much extended "family" I have in England. I looked for and found the idyllic, but there were also the horrific murders and knifings in London. I ate fresh shelled peas and Eton Mess and drank Pimms and watched friends play cricket. It was all so English! So different from München! So familiar! I will miss it, but I will also be glad to be in my quiet, pretty clean little home town...