Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Berlinspiration: Faces of N


Wotcha, lads. Since my empty bank account has forced me to abandon my hope and social life, I haven't had many weekly WTF experiences to report. However, my internet connection is mercifully still intact, so allow me to introduce my new "series" which I can comfortably author from the confines of my living room...Berlinspiration!

This week, I'm a wee bit addicted to the enviable wardrobe of model/designer/Audrey Hepburn doppelganger Nicole Roscher, which is conveniently showcased in Berlin-based artist Gabriel Shalom's 'audio-visual EP' Faces of N.  The concept is pretty straightforward; pretty girl with great style dresses up, artist samples and synthesizes the sounds made by said pretty girl and her clothes as she dresses, everything gets cut up and mashed around in the edit to create the flickering equivalent of a fashion strobe light.

I'll admit, I'm not quite sure what, if any, deep artistic merit Faces of N holds, and the hyper-minimal, glitchy breakbeats pain my techno-hostile ears. But despite clawing desperately for the volume control, I'm transfixed every time I play it. Everything about Roscher's look - her Winona in Girl Interrupted pixie crop, pearls and peach 30's girl about town get-up, faux (I hope) fur ponytail and what looks suspiciously like a Jacobean ruff poking out of her diamante skull sweater - screams uncompromisingly of Berlin.

Roscher plays with high fashion, nu-goth, trad vintage and punk twists on sport lux which, teamed with her signature micro fringe and lashings of kohl, creates looks that stare you straight in the eyes and state flatly in a Teutonic monotone 'I don't give a fuck what you think. I'll do, wear and say what I want, and look beyond fabulous in the process." Her style is abrasive, unconventional and just a tiny bit polished around the edges - much like the spirit of the city itself.

The Faces of N series can be seen in full here. Be warned; the rapid-flash nature of the video and hardcore buzzing/bleeping is a potentially headache inducing experience. Best to watch it on mute, just in case.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Random acquisitions in Berlin


It's amazing how much random life flotsam you can acquire over a few months, isn't it?

When Oli and I first arrived in Berlin with two large suitcases and a couple of kilos of hand luggage, we barely had anything to decorate our 20m square room in the heart of Friedrichshain. We've since moved across the city into our own place, and found ourselves carrying a whole lot more than we originally arrived with.

We still don't have much to call our own in our small, half-decorated apartment (which I prefer to think of as 'shabby-chic taken to it's logical conclusion'). However, unlike the vast amount of crap we ditched back in Cardiff, I think the few possessions we have collected over our four months here provide some choice snippets of our Berlin story so far.


Veuve Clicquot bottle - empty
My mum has always told me that she has champagne tastes on lemonade money, and this has never been more evident than the time she rocked up to the swank hotel on our doorstep and promptly settled in with a bottle of the finest bubbly available. The five of us sat talking and laughing on her balcony and polished the whole thing off in under half an hour, and for one short night Oli and I were able to drown our financial sorrows in a vat of crisp, fruity fizz, and temporarily forget about the fact that we probably wouldn't able to pay our rent that month...


Beer crates
Q: What does one do when one moves into a semi-furnished flat with zero disposable income or creative nous to expend on jazzing the place up?
A: Forgo the deposit on the last few crates of beer you bought at the Getrankemarkt, of course! Plonk said crates in a corner, whack a couple of pieces of scrap wood on top and finish with a 1.99EUR Netto pot plant. Anything A Beautiful Mess can do, I can do better.
And before you ask, that bar code was left on the Sterni crate to add a touch of edgy, post-ironic urbanite authenticity to our living room. It definitely, 100% has nothing to do with us being too lazy to pick it off.


Tiny board games
Oli and I no longer own a TV. We also can't get WiFi in our flat anywhere except the kitchen. Aside from Spotify and the occasional 'ice bucket challenge gone wrong' video, we have a hilariously limited exposure to TV, films, viral video memes and just about anything that has happened on the interwebz since June. As 2014's pop culture sails merrily on past us, the best we can do is give it a jaunty wave from the comfort of our Stone Age existence. Because of this, we've had to resort to the kind of good old fashioned fun usually espoused by the kind of finger-wagging mother trope who hangs pictures of Donny Osmond on her fridge and insists that too much TV will make your eyes go square. But hey, who needs Netflix when you can have INTENSE ALL NIGHT CONNECT FOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS*?? I never really bothered with Breaking Bad anyway, and still cringe internally when someone proudly shows off their new Heisenberg t-shirt and I have to pretend to know who he is.

* Due to the nature of the game, Uno is only possible when we have guests.


Hula Hoop
As I've mentioned before, I'm working for a crazy, multi-disciplinary hoop dance festival, which takes place annually in the centre of Berlin. This hoop was kindly given to me for free after the festival this summer by the lovely man who runs Der Kleine Zirkusladen in Charlottenburg, and is pretty much the only form of exercise I engage with these days.


Childrens cat puzzle
77-piece slice of pure joy. Bought by my mum, who knows how much I appreciate small, fluffy things, and how much Oli enjoys my wildly confused expression when he hides the pieces.


Sally
Sally cost me a whole Euro at the Mauerpark flea market last weekend. I've tried to curb my addiction to useless, garish, bargain-basement tat since moving here, but she was going so 'cheep' I couldn't resist. Oh, the puns! Somebody give me my own stand-up show -  this is award-winning material.


Beach-style pallett sofa
Probably one of the most impressive things we own. Oli built this from scratch for the princely sum of 22EUR. Ja, fo'real! We carted an old futon bed across the city via tram (yes, it was painful. No, I don't want to talk about it), which Oli then hacked to pieces with a tiny saw and hand-screwed into place. He doesn't want to talk about it either. The palletts were a donation from his old bosses, and we painted the ice-cream colours on the backboard with tester pots mixed with white paint. It's only got a standard bed sheet on it at the moment, because I haven't yet been able to buy enough fabric to make a mattress cover and cushions.


Tea
Though I originally suffered a PG Tips drought when we first moved here, regular care packages and visits from home have ensured that a decent British brew is about the only thing we won't be lacking in the next few weeks. The contents of our fridge may be dwindling rapidly, but I plan to keep us fed with a nutritious diet of tea bread, tea soup and Spaghetea Bolognese until our financial situation improves. I'll let you know how we fare with that... 


Artwork by Diddi
My friend Di is a creative genius. In addition to her work as a theatre puppet and prop-maker, Di paints, sews and takes beautiful photographs. After I admired her 'fuzzy faces' collection of animal portraits, she kindly painted me a picture of my kitty Dave as a birthday present. She also made and sold a bunch of these cracking headdresses at the Karneval de Kulturen back in June, before getting moved along by security at Hallesches Tor for not having a licence. Sadly she no longer lives in Berlin, but I still have these mementos from her on display at our new pad. Hopefully she'll be back to visit us before she jets off on her next adventure.


Our new flat
For all I moan about our lack of money and possessions, the fact remains that we got extremely, freakishly lucky with our gorgeous little apartment by Weissensee lake. We may not have much, but it's home.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Monday, 11 August 2014

Style Spotting in Berlin: U1 - from Warschauer Strasse to Kotti


In case you didn't already know, fashion is kind of a big deal in Berlin.

My days are spent staring, goggle-eyed, at the endless parade of hipsters, high-fashion victims, street punks and obscure subculture reps patrolling the streets. Forget Pinterest - this city is a living, breathing style mood board. As my disposable income now only stretches to cover the occasional Milchkaffee and a slice of cake, regular style-spotting has become my hobby of choice. I might not be able to replace my broken sandals, but I can still indulge my fashion lust without spending a penny.

Ideally you'd come to Berlin, spot these divine style mavens yourself, visit all the cracking independent boutiques and second hand shops littered around , and share a coffee/high five with me whilst you're at it. For those who can't manage a however-many-mile trip to this freakishly fashionable city, I'll be travelling the key U-bahn routes on foot with my trusty baby-friend Ursi, searching out a mixed bag of unspeakably well-dressed Berliners for you to leach inspiration from. Aren't we kind?




Warschauer Strasse


Warschauer Strasse S&U Bahnhof - home to punks, hipsters and those with a higher than average tattoo:bare skin ratio. If it's an edgy aestethic you're looking for, this is the place to find it. Anna was our first style spot, and cites old-skool movies, 80's new wave, punk and her ever-changing mood as her daily style-spiration. To me, she pretty much epitomises the rough-around-the-edges urban punk vibe of the area. Check out her spidery knees! How cool?

Schlesiches Tor


Schlesisches Tor station is a bit of a club-hub. Underground upside down obscure indie caves, minimal techno boathouses, a floating swimming pool and a dance party underneath a train station can all be found within a 500 metre radius. You'd think with all that night-time carnage that it would be a bit of a shithole, but the leafy streets, pre-war buildings and pavement cafe culture lend it an almost Parisian vibe. Coincidentally, that's where our second style spot Jeanne is from. She's inspired by 1930's music halls, Audrey Hepburn and classic shapes, and her cute pixie crop is making me seriously consider my decision to grow my hair out.

Goerlitzer Bahnhof


Notorious in Berlin for the proliferation of drug dealers loitering around the station, Goerli was the last place I expected to find this high-fashion duo. Ursi and I caught Ileana and Mikaeala just as they were about to step into a super-chic store, which is great because now I know where they shop and have at least a teeny chance of looking as preened as they do some day. These two mainly draw their inspiration from Dazed and Confused, ID and Love magazines, girls they spot on the street and contemporary art. I especially like how Ileana has matched the little orange beads on her dress with her Nikes - nice.

Kottbusser Tor


Aside from being the city's most confusing U-bahnhof, Kotti has been renowned for years as Berlin's punk central. There were no mohawks in sight today, but we scoped out Ayelen and her ridiculously awesome peachy geometric bob as soon as we rounded the corner. Bum bag + side split sarong + quality tattooage = a half witch, half cyberpunk slice of 90's inspired brilliance.

It's around this point that Ursi and I got a bit flustered by the heat and ended up sitting by the canal with a couple of beers and a brotchen. Next week, I'll be continuing my U1 style search between Prinzenstrasse and Gleisdreieck, and hopefully not getting terribly lost in the process.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Monday, 4 August 2014

WTF of the Week: 5 things I will never get used to about Germany


1) The milk
It just tastes...different. I can't put my finger on it. A cup of tea here tastes nothing like the tasty warm beverage I know and love at home, and I'm 100% certain that the milk is to blame. No, I'm not drinking the UHT long-life stuff. Yes, I put it back in the fridge when I'm done. I have spent time typing 'why does the milk in Germany taste grim' into Google and yet to find an answer. It may be purely psychological, but all I know is that I'm not a fan.

2) The banking system
Possibly the most customer-unfriendly set-up I've ever encountered. What kind of bank doesn't let you pay cash into someone elses account? That's plain crazy. Because of this, I had to go to the Postbank and pay 10 poxy Euro just to transfer my rent. UK banks may be a bunch of snakes, but at least they attempt to present a veneer of helpfulness, and sometimes even a cup of tea to ease the pain of collossal waiting times. Not so here.

3) The handshakes. Y SO FIRM?
Germans love them some handshakes, which sounds very jovial until you discover that this is less of a friendly formality, more of an attempt to juice your little fingers like a ripe orange. Their handshakes don't just crush your hands, they crush your very soul. Why? Because you know that no matter how much you squeeze, or train with a wrist-strengthener, you will never, ever come away as the winner from one of these bone-splitters. A handshake of steel is pretty much written into the average German's DNA. I never considered myself to have a particularly weak handshake. Now I see how wrong I was.

4) The supermarkets
- You will rarely, if ever, be able to find everything you want under one roof.
- The only 24 hour supermarket is Kaisers, where you can expect to roughly double the cost of your usual shop.
- The queues are always endless, and there are never enough cashiers on hand.
- They don't open on Sunday. This is a particular bugbear of mine, because if you were too busy/drunk/hungover to replenish your food supplies on Saturday you're essentially fucked if you want to, y'know, eat the next day. The man who runs the spaeti round the corner makes a killing from buying bits and bobs at Lidl, then selling them alongside bottles of Advocaat at a vastly inflated cost when everywhere else is closed. Smart lad.

5) The stairs
Six storey apartment blocks. 34 degree heat. A country that appears to be violently opposed to the idea of lifts in residential buildings. My smoke-tarnished lungs can't handle this kind of abuse. I may ask the Hausmeister to install a Stena stairlift.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Monday, 28 July 2014

German insults I have learnt


DISCLAIMER: The following phrases were taught to me by a couple of German teenagers after a fair few amateur mojitos. I have checked and validated the legitimacy of all of the following as best I can, but cannot promise that all (or any) of them are 100% correct. I take no responsibility for any embarrassment incurred by anyone who decides to trial them on a native German speaker and comes away looking like an award-winning plonker.

1) Arschgeige - literally translates as 'arse violin', a mental image that expertly straddles the fine line between genius and ridiculous.

2) Warmduscher - someone who takes warm showers. I guess that makes them a pussy? But if you ask me, taking unnecessarily cold showers doesn't make you particularly 'hard'. It just means you're either a) a masochist or b) the forgetful sort who neglected their gas bills.

3) Ich mach dich messer - Turkish-German slang. The straight translation is 'I make you knife', which makes no sense at all, so I guess it's all in the context. Basically, it means you're going to kill them. If a stranger says this to you, it's probably wise to start running.

4) Hurensohn - Son of a whore. Pretty much guaranteed to cause maximum offence. Somewhat disturbingly, this one was taught to me by a cherub-faced 16 year old who was in the process of making S'mores on a bonfire.

5) Toastbrot - a piece of toasted bread. I have no idea in what context this should be used, or why it is even considered an insult at all. Toast is pretty nice, so surely saying 'du bist Toastbrot' to someone is, if anything, a compliment? I'm not sure I will ever fully get to grips with the complexities of German slang.

6) Teletubbieszur├╝ckwinker - My personal favourite. Literal translation? A person who waves back to Teletubbies. Fair play Germany, that's low.

Bis bald,

Betti Baudelaire xxx

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

5 things I've changed my mind about since moving to Berlin



I expected a few things to happen when I took the plunge and moved to a foreign country for the first time. Missing friends, family and fried breakfasts was a given. I knew that a lot of my English humour would be lost in translation when talking to German acquaintances, and was aware that despite my best efforts I would always refer to pounds, not Euros.

What I didn't count on was that moving abroad would change long-held thoughts and opinions that I had previously thought of as immutable. I'm not talking big, personality shaping things - I'm still a leftie with a preference for quiet time and bad 80's pop culture. It's the tiny thoughts that rarely cross your conscious mind that suddenly get turned on their head without warning, whilst you scratch your head and wonder why you never questioned such clearly bogus logic in the first place.

Here's the list of my top five Berlin-prompted about turns.

1) I now despise carpets
At first it came as a shock to me that, apparently, many Germans are a wee bit disgusted by our well-carpeted British homes. But just think about how quickly dirt accumulates on a wood or lino floor. You've got to hoover that shit every couple of days, because if you don't you'll soon find your feet are covered in a permanent layer of crusty detritus. Carpets, however, render you blithely ignorant, and you can happily pad around for weeks on what is essentially a comfy, well-disguised filth accumulator. So much eurrrrggh. Keep your fancy-schmancy carpets, Britain. I'll take pretty wooden floorboards over a posh shag pile any day of the week.

2) Public transport no longer sends me running for the hills.
This one probably doesn't apply to anyone who has ever lived in a city bigger than, say, Bristol. Londoners and New Yorkers may scoff, but coming from a city as dutty as Cardiff  means that you rarely have to rely on public transport to get anywhere because absolutely everything in the city is within walking distance. During my last six months in the city, I cultivated an intense hatred of Cardiff Bus Company, and managed to accidentally confine myself to a 1.5 square mile area which contained my workplace, house, various friends and family members and the city centre. I would have laughed in the face of anyone silly enough to suggest travelling 40 minutes by train to get to a fruit and veg market. "Come off it, y'wanker," I would have snorted. "There's a Tesco Metro on the corner."

As is the case with so many aspects of Berlin life, it was a case of adapt or founder. Going on foot? It just isn't an option when a handful of tram stops equates to 45 minutes of power walking. Great for the buttocks, not so great if you'd rather avoid a reputation as a piss-poor timekeeper. And whilst staying within the same square mile in Cardiff still allowed me to enjoy an active social life, here it would write off 99.99999% of potential fun opps. Who in their right mind would think that was a good idea when there's a floating swimming pool at Schlesiches Tor?

Despite my initial reservations, travelling an hour to work on the Ubahn no longer fill me with dread - in fact, it gives me a welcome opportunity to people watch, browse Instagram and catch up with my reading in peace.

I still hate buses, mind.

3) Working 9 -5? It's no way to make a living...
"Does nobody work in Berlin?" laughed our newly-arrived mate Giacomo yesterday evening. It's a question I ask myself often as I stroll past bar after cafe after bar, all of them full of smart-casual cappuccino sippers and chain smoking Williamsburg wannabes at any given time of day. Why are these people not at the office? Do they even have jobs? If not, how come they're able to shell out endless dolla on fancy coffee and American Spirit tobacco with nary a care in the world?

I've deduced (probably wrongly) that this is because of the inherently fluid, flexible nature of the city and its inhabitants. Yep, there are a lot of unemployed people. There are also a lot of students, artists, would-be artists who haven't quite gotten around to doing any work yet, and people who still haven't come close to figuring out exactly what it is they want to do with their lives. There are young people and university leavers navigating a precarious job market, jumping from part-time bar work to three month internship with a fair bit of time to kill in between. And there are start-ups galore, helmed by people who actually trust their employees enough to let them choose their own hours and work where it suits them without worrying that they'll be pissing away company time.

Living in Britain, we're conditioned to believe that anything other than standard 9-5 work isn't a "real" job. If you tell people you're working from home, they'll probably think you're dossing around in your pyjamas with a bucket of Haagen Dazs and a Breaking Bad box set. Here, staff can take their dogs for a pootle around the shops on a Wednesday afternoon, cafes and apartments double up as makeshift offices, and it's not unusual for a work day to begin at 11am, noon or even 2pm. Berlin has spoiled me. I'm not sure how I'll ever survive a 'real' job in Blighty again.

TBH, I'm sure the city is also teeming with nine to five-ers in their little suits and ties. It's just that I never see them, because I'm too busy enjoying a 2pm milchkaffee and extolling the virtues of flexi-time.

4) House plants.
I've never had much time for house plants. Sure they look pretty, but inevitably my careful watering schedule slips and every single bastarding one ends up dying. Eventually, all I'm left with are a couple of pots full of crumbling soil and a murderer's remorse.

The Germans are bloody mad for them, though. There's a plant shop on every street corner and beautifully bedecked windows in every apartment block. It's hard not to envy the abundant window boxes when all you've got is a weedy little mint plant in the corner of your otherwise vegetation-free bedroom.

In the end fate intervened on my behalf, and we ended up taking custody of the dozen or so plants that came with our new sublet. Jebus Christ, what a difference a few shrubs and herbs make. Our cosy, shabby pad may not have paint, or indeed plaster, on 50% of the walls, but it still looks a darn sight better than any of our student houses ever did, and it's all thanks to a well-placed orchid and a large tree-thing that Oli enjoys rustling around in. I've been converted, and to show my dedication I have invested in some Miracle Gro and bookmarked a page entitled 'How Not To Kill Basil'. We'll see how it goes.

5) 2.50EUR for a cup of tea? Fine by me.
 As a born and bred Brit, I come with an in-built appreciation - enthusiasm, even - for our national beverage. Any self-respecting British person knows that a pot of English Breakfast can cure all woes. Even so, I tend to balk at paying any more than £1.70 for a standard cuppa.

At some point over the past four months, however, I've been brainwashed - BRAINWASHED, I TELL YOU - into abandoning all of my conditioning and believing that it's totally OK to pay through the nose for hot water, so long as it's served in a pretty glass with wilted mint leaves and a lemon wedge by a grumpy barista. Curse all ye superchic Scandi-style cafes, with your stripped wood and trendy hot beverage menus and vegan courgette and unicorn tears cake and whatever. Someone get me a cup of builders brew, stat. Milk, one sugar.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Friday, 27 June 2014

June Insta-update


It's been a busy ol'month!

We're in the middle of Hoopurbia right now, which is why I've been AWOL from this blog for the past couple of weeks. Almost every waking minute of the last fortnight has been spent meticulously planning every aspect of the festival - renting 100 custom-made hula hoops, sourcing a disco bike and organising an international midnight hooping contest have been just a few of the totally bizarro tasks we've had to figure out in the run up to the big event. Despite the mania, though, the festival itself is running like a dream. I do love it when a plan comes together.

In other news, it was my birthday on Wednesday! And what a corker it was - before 9.30am Oli and I were told that we've got the flat we wanted, which means the Berlin dream is 100% living on. Oli also surprised me with tickets to Limp Bizkit, which meant I fulfilled one of my lifetime ambitions by crowd-surfing to 'I'm Broke'. Insanely great.

Normal service will be resumed shortly, honest.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Saturday, 14 June 2014

On getting my shit together



I'm not a particularly organised person.

I know this is a trait I make many, many references to on a daily basis, but I think many people are yet to realise how truly useless at life I am. Seriously. Just now, I spilled half a bottle of beer over myself and my bed when settling down to write this post. Then, in my panic, my bandana somehow slipped down over my glasses and I ended up stumbling around the room, visionless, trying in vain to remove the bastard thing. Oli just said that living with me is like watching live-action comedy. At least my accidental slapstick revues are making someone happy.

This kind of bumbling idiocy also applies to my time management skillz. Don't get me wrong, when I'm at work I'm totally fine. It's when I'm at home, trying to find enough hours in the day to squeeze in all of the things I have or want to do that it all begins to go pear-shaped.

I promised myself that when I moved to Berlin things would be different, so in an attempt to organise my time more effectively I've downloaded the Wunderlist app. It's perfect for the kind of person who, like me, finds their productivity stalling because of their inability to organise their time effectively. These are a few of the categories that will be appearing regularly as part of my ongoing efforts to become a less ridiculous human being.

#1. WRITING. WRITING WRITING WRITING.

This is my biggest priority. I love to write, so much so that I've written for free for the past 10 years, taken a degree in journalism and authored more blog posts than I can count. So why is it so regularly pushed to the bottom of my priorities list? The problem is that when I write, I want it to be perfect. I don't want to publish something that I'm not completely happy with, and often my annoying brainbox tells me that even if I work for hours on a piece, it still won't be anywhere near as good as I'd like it to be. So I give up. Also, time constraints are a massive problem. Between work, cooking din-dins, seeing my friends and dealing with all the other time-eaters that take up everyday life I often can't find enough space to squeeze writing in. Ideally I'd love to write as a career, and to a certain extent I already do. But I'd like to go freelance, and that's a luxury career choice that just isn't available to me at the moment. So for now I need to focus on freeing up enough time and energy to keep writing regularly, and stop beating myself up if it's less than perfecto.

#2. Get fit or die tryin'

I will never, ever be one of those people who emerges from a gym, kale juice (is that a thing?) in hand and smug grin on face. In fact, I'm more likely to decide to slowly gnaw my own arm off whilst listening to Billy Ray Cyrus' Greatest Hits than I am to step onto a cross-trainer. The thing is, the gym bores me silly. So does running, and planking, and any kind of activity that requires a gym jacket.

My soul is dying (aliexpress.com)
My eating isn't so bad. Being vegetarian encourages me to get creative in the kitchen, and aside from the excessive beer consumption and more visits to Pizza Dach than I'd like to mention, it's all pretty healthy. So really, it's just the exercise I need to work on. I used to train full-time as a dancer and loved attending eight hours of ballet, contemporary and jazz classes a day, and since discovering my inner hula hooper at NoFit I've added a new dimension to my dancey-lust. Obviously I'm going to have to work pretty hard to get back into shape (five years is a long time to go without doing the splits) but it's nothing that daily Youtube videos and a couple of ballet classes a week won't fix. Oli also bought us some freakishly cheap badminton racquets, so we can go and embarrass ourselves in Volkspark put in some valuable cardio-time whenever we choose. This fitness lark can't be too hard, right? RIGHT?? Oh God. I'm tired just thinking about it. Somebody carry me to the nearest kebab joint.

#3. Deutsch Lernen

When I first came to Berlin two months ago, I was full of the wide-eyed optimism of the fledgling ex-pat. "Of course I'll learn German!" I cried enthusiastically. "In fact, I watched a video the other day about a man who learnt Mandarin in six months. German isn't made up of indecipherable pictograms. This will be a breeze!"

How. Wrong. I. Was.

The main hurdle to learning German in Berlin is not the language itself. No way. So many of the words are very close to English, so it's pretty easy to get to grips with (the grammar's a bitch, but that's another story). It's the perfect storm of factors that makes it so difficult. It's the relentless social whirl that never seems to stop, leaving you with a perpetual sense of FOMO and a reluctance to stay in and study. It's the fact that as soon as someone under 35 hears you talk, they immediately switch to English. It's the fact that no matter how hard I stare at a Lagune language book, the grammar still makes NO FUCKING SENSE AT ALL TO ME. But most of all, it's the fact that it's all too easy to make excuses like the ones above, instead of sitting down and just getting the hell on with it.
I've put an advert on the Tandem Language Learning website, so at least I can combine social outings with hardcore Deutsch-lernen. Let's see how this goes.

#4. Resume craftiness

I've always loved a bit of crafting, me. Whether it was making clothes with me mam in the summer sun last year, painting atrocious pictures for Oli's birthday or even just putting together little collages of photos and mementos, getting my craft on invariably makes me feel that little bit happier. That's why it's such a ballache that these days I rarely find time to indulge in a bit of arty-fartiness. It also doesn't help that living on an interns wage makes me feel horribly guilty for buying the materials I need. This needs to stop. I've just discovered the Turkischmarkt in Kreuzberg, and with their abundance of super-cheap fabrics, canvases and ribbons there is no excuse for me to put it off any longer. I could make like my friend Sian and take up cross stitch. I could pick up my knitting needles again. I could buy a sketchbook and keep a rudimentary art journal - something I've wanted to do for a long time. What I should not do is sit here whining about my lack of creative outlets, and put a little bit of money and time towards doing something I love.

#5. Become a camera-touting tourist

You've probably noticed that the quality of my blog-snaps is somewhat sub-par. This is because I am way too forgetful to bring both my phone and my camera out at the same time, so I tend to make do with my newly-acquired smartphone. I'd like to change this. My camera isn't a DSLR or nuffink- in fact, I'm pretty sure it's only a couple of steps up from my grainy phone-cam -  but my dad says it's very possible to take an amazing photograph on a passable camera and he's always right. My little snapper doesn't have an abundance of settings, but if I spend time getting to grips with the limited aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings I'm sure I can produce far more valuable blog-fodder than I do at present.

#6. Reverse my current "that ain't music, back in my day..." mentality

I used to be well into my choonz. My CD collection was in the hundreds, and I was attending at least two gigs a week. I don't really know what happened, tbh. I got older, new indie and metal music started boring me, and the price of gigs in general went through the roof. Now I've found myself stuck in a musical rut with no idea how to escape. This needs to be remedied, and fast. Spotify is still free in Germany, for Gods sake. I need to stop listening to 80's Italo Euro disco and start expanding my musical interests again. Recommendations are always welcome, by the way. Unless you're suggesting country music. In that case, do kindly fuck off.

#7. Diversify my leisure time

There are a lot of museums in Berlin. Art galleries, too. There are dance performances, obscure theatre productions, installations and local gigs abound. Have I been to any of these? Have I buggery. Most of my leisure time is spent either a) in pretty bars with fairy lights and an abundance of foliage b) washing my hair or c) watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch on Youtube. There is a whole city of culture out there, and I am entitled to student discount entrance prices. Why am I not taking advantage of this? When Sian visited, she managed to do three cultural things in under 48 hours. That's embarrassing. Museum Island, I'm coming to get you.

#8. Stop drinking beer

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Ha. Ha.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Friday, 13 June 2014

Sonntag: Karneval der Kulturen


"You thought Mai Fest was a big party?" smiled Ed, our landlord, as he raised a wry eyebrow.

"Just wait until you see the Karneval..."

We didn't know much about the Karneval before we set off for Hallesches Tor on Sunday afternoon. The vague snippets of information Ed had fed us as we sat smoking on our balcony in no way prepared us for what we were about to experience.

I'd managed to catch about 45 minutes of Karneval activity on the Saturday before heading off to work for the evening. Hordes of people were swarming the closed-off streets, browsing the market stalls, watching bands on the various stages and drinking the obligatory 0,5's of beer, but it all looked relatively tame. We spent a fair bit of time watching a Chilean acrobat reeling around on a gigantic unicyle. A word of advice to anyone unfamiliar with street performer etiquette: never, EVER make eye contact. Unless of course you want to be forced to dance the Bolero with a demented street clown in front of 150 observers, as Oli was.

The next day, I promised myself I'd make up by experiencing the Karneval from beginning to end. Sadly that was not to be, as the temperature soared to above 30 and the city started to smell a little bit like sewerage. We retreated to Tiergarten to wait out the heat, and finally made our way over on the stifling U-bahn in the early evening.

It was rammed. We spent about half an hour shoving our way down a street no longer than 100 metres, whilst our nostrils and bellies were tormented by the myriad irresistible aromas wafting out from the hundreds of food stalls that lined our walk. Thai green curry, candyfloss, freshly roasted vegetables, gelato - I sorely regretted eating bland 2.50 noodles from Zoologischer Garten bahnhof before arriving.

We met up with Di, who had made some incredible feather headdresses which she had been successfully selling at Hallesches Tor station until security told her to move along. I gladly took one off her hands (I still owe you that fiver Di - there, it's in writing now) as we sat on the floor of a Mehringdamm side street and watched an experimental two-piece collaborating with a rapper who had happened upon them 10 minutes earlier. That was ace, but time was ticking ever onwards and we realised that, if we didn't motor on quicksharpish, we'd miss the main draw of the entire carnival - the parade.

The party hit us full force in the face the moment we left the confines of our little alleyway. We must have danced our way through at least four impromptu dubstep street raves on the short stretch to Yorckstrasse, where the parade was coming to a close. Despite it being 8pm the heat was still searing, and buckets of water were pouring down from 5th floor apartments onto the thankful crowds below. As we made it to the parade a mass of glitter-streaked, bikini clad revellers - we're talking thousands here - surged past, following their party float of choice. Smoke machines relentlessly shrouded the passage, dancers in full Carribean carnival attire ignored the broken glass littered everywhere and simulated sex on the road (awkward), an old man with a bandana, a spliff and a beard to rival Santa Claus danced on the back of an enormous techno wagon.

The other day I read the Daily Mail's annual frown-fest about the infamous Cardiff Carnage night*. I'd strongly advise the clearly quite sensitive journalists in question to steer well clear of Karneval der Kulturen for fear of them suffering an outrage-induced aneurysm. To everyone else, I'd recommend considering a holiday to Berlin in mid-June. KDK is, quite simply, a fun overload.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

*In fairness, this particular Daily Mail grumble does lead on an awful story about a group of girls attacking a homeless guy. That's horrendous behaviour and deserves to have been reported, but it still doesn't justify the finger-wagging 'oh, isn't fun crap' attitude and terrifically bad writing that punctuates the rest of the article.

Monday, 9 June 2014

My little brother is married!!

Images courtesy of Martin Beddall (www.mcbweddings.com) and Zoe FJ Sutton

As I may have mentioned in my previous two posts, last week Oli and I flew back to the UK for a very special occasion indeed. MY LITTLE BROTHER TIED THE KNOT!!

This was both exciting and terrifying in equal measures, because although Jack is a fully-grown proper adult person with a job, a flat and a car (I'll admit, I'm lagging a fair way behind him in the 'getting my shit together' stakes) I will forever picture him in my mind as a six year old kid with a quiff who liked to fire snails at walls with a slingshot. According to his lovely now-wife Holly (and my sister-in-law, eee!) he's come a long way in the seven years they've been together, and it's true that for the most part he appears to be the very picture of maturity and domesticity.

He shattered that illusion 48 hours before the big day by drawing icing sugar cocks on his hand and giggling like a big kid.

The ceremony and reception took place at St Donat's castle, the history of which is summed up very well on wedding photographer Martin Beddall's blog about the day. It's an idyllic venue with more than a hint of fairy-princess castle about it - grand halls, ivy-strewn turrets and mock-medieval spiral staircases to the most ornate ladies loos I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. Outside, pristine lawns meet rambling wild gardens and a little winding path leads directly to the ocean. Jolly (as they shall henceforth be known) and Martin Beddall legged it down there for the obligatory just-married snaps after the ceremony. You'll have to check out Martin's blog if you want to see the pictures in all their glory. All I'll say is that they're going to have one heck of a photo album.

The day flew by without a single issue - Holly held her nerves and made a stunning entrance before walking down the aisle, which cued the waterworks immediately. My brother fought a losing battle against his tear ducts, but still managed to deliver a fantastic speech. I managed to keep my gorgeous cranberry-red dress intact (for the most part), but sadly can't say the same about my make-up as I cried like a baby when I saw my little bro waiting at the altar. A few innocent games of Giant Jenga and Connect Four were played on the lawn until Jack and Holly's friends had the not-so-innocent idea of ordering shots at the bar. The night culminated with a gigantic circle pit to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, with my dad in the middle playing air guitar. Wonderful :)

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx