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.


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 (
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


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 ( 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

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sonntag: Olympus Photography Playground

DISCLAIMER: This post is ridiculously late (I'm blaming a combination of laziness, work and a busy-busy trip to the UK) and sadly the Olympus Photography Playground has now been and gone, rendering this review largely irrelevant.

Since the success of Olympus' 2013 effort, the Photography Playground is on it's way to becoming a bona fide Berlin institution. Housed in the Opernwerkstatten in Mitte, the two month exhibition draws mammoth crowds, largely on the basis of it being a) free and b) a really easy way to bump up your Instagram likes.

The concept is simple but sublime - meander through three floors of surrealist landscapes with a camera in hand and a selection of artsy poses at the ready. The stunning installations are as diverse as they are breathtaking. Rotating mock-baroque apartment interiors, fluorescent light paintings and DIY recycled material mirror mazes are just a few of the offerings from local and international artists including Dean Chamberlain, Leandro Erlich and Anna Burns. No, I've never heard of them either, but by all accounts they're Very Big Deals.

Sadly, we didn't get to explore as many of the installations as we would have liked to, as the unexpected two-hour queue threw our already jam-packed schedule into disarray. Even after the long wait outside, many of the smaller or more elaborate pieces had their own sub-queues. This actually works in your favour if you're not strapped for time, as your pretty snaps don't get ruined by a confused man in cargo shorts accidentally straying into your shot. For Oli and I, however, it rather took the sheen off our experience. We were only able to spend about 40 minutes exploring the labyrinth of eye candy before I had to leg it to Yogaraum, where I was needed as a background hula hooper for the German TV show Taff (don't ask).

The Playground also allowed you to rent and trial the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 for free in the super photogenic surrounds, and then gave you the SD card when you left. This was brilliant and awful in equal measures. On the one hand, exploring the seemingly endless selection of settings and filters was hugely enjoyable and surprisingly user-friendly, even to a technophobe like myself. My personal favourite was the grainy black and white filter, which lent even the most pedestrian of our photos a hint of retro glamour. On the other, I think my savings account is about to receive a crushing blow. I hadn't even considered buying a new camera before I stumbled into this well-lit wonderland, and now all I can think of is getting my hands on a mock-vintage snapper with over 15 'art' filters.

Fuck you Olympus, and your beautiful, horrendously elaborate marketing strategies. Now where's my debit card?

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Hoopurbians on film part II

I did promise to post the Hoopurbia promo vid, so here it is, in all it's neon, sunlit glory! Enjoy, and please don't judge my awful cartwheel/husky post-lurgy voice too harshly.

As far as this blog goes, normal service will be resumed shortly. Last week I was back in the UK to watch my little brother tie the knot (look forward to that post - there will be many amazing/hilarious snaps) and now have a massive backlog of half-written posts to update. I'll get on it this week, honest.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx