I’m a little bit woolly at the moment. It’s quite enjoyable but not always the most productive state to be in, which means that I haven’t got anywhere at all with finding myself gainful employment for UK reentry, nor made much progress with Christmas present prepping.

first try at colourwork, earflaps and pompoms

On the other hand I have ‘finished’ the hat I was working on for skiing.  It’s my first attempt at colour work and after ripping it apart a few times and getting used to holding a colour in each hand I really enjoyed making it.  The problem is that despite using the ‘child’ pattern it came up pretty big, and more upsettingly the gorgeous grey I chose for my stars doesn’t really show up too well.  I like it close up but it’s pretty subtle as you can probably see from my pic.  Yeah, I know, you can’t see the pattern at all can you?  It’s better in daylight, I’ll show you soon.  But anyhoo, all this means that in pursuit of perfection I’m going to have to do something funky to line this one and make it fit a bit better (fleece or fur?) and I pretty much ‘have’ to make another one.

That’s right, I was forced to make another visit to the wool shop on Saturday.  Off I went in the crisp cold sunshine on my bike, reminding myself how much I need exercise before I start falling down mountains.

just one corner of inspiration heaven

Somehow I’ve become awfully attached to that bike, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to her. Some bike oriented person in Brizzle is going to have to help me find another sit-up-and-beg-this-isn’t-exercise-it’s-too-elegant bike when I get home.  I’m just saying. You know who you are…

But back to Loops. I’m not complaining, far from it, but oh my gosh I have a hard time in there. It’s all so very very desirable, run by people who clearly love knitting and wool, and not only display the yarns beautifully but also have lots of sample knits and swatches around the place to show you what’s possible. Yearning to be able to do it all…I’m a bit limited at the moment as I only have DPNs and a circular needle here but if you want a wool stocking filler please send me specs so that I can stock up with wool before I go home.

I’ll be back to the shop soon because I got struck down by indecisiveness and was completely unable to choose 2 colours for this hat ‘take 2’.

just a few of the pretty colours

I finally narrowed it down to four shades (I have a 3 green hats, so no green, 2 red hats so no red…) and then got stuck.  Luckily the shop lady came along and told me that the dark blue would make me a good jumper but not hat, and she suggested the smokey blue and oatmeal.  I had to go away and think about it but I’m almost convinced she’s right and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

So now the question is how much to mess with the pattern.  I definitely need to take some rows out, but I’m strongly tempted to try a different motif as well.  I find knitting exactly the same thing again almost as hard as waiting for buses when I could walk instead.  This doesn’t bode well for my first pair of socks!

And that must be enough hat talk.  If you’ve any wonderful ideas, please comment, it appears that I need help….


getting reacquainted with my bike

Families enjoying Tempelhof

This weekend was definitely a good’un.  It was cold but clear and sunny, in fact the light was all syrupy and golden, wonderful.  It’s funny how the minute it gets cold you start to notice that the people in the sunshine are actually turning their face towards the light like plants, their eyes are usually closed and you know that they’re savoring the feeling of the warmth kissing their skin, in the hope that they’ll be able to remember it on the endlessly grey days that make you feel like it’s never going to be sunny again.

I was determined that I would use my bike this weekend, and use it I did.  I rode to watch the rugby match on Saturday morning, a journey that started off absolutely freezing and ended unfeasibly sweaty as there were some mini hills and I was late.  The rugby was showing in a deep dark pit, and poor Wales wuz robbed, so it wasn’t quite the sunniest possible start to the day, but the bike ride helped.

I left the bike alone for a little bit to get coffee with Kate and then took it off towards Prenzlauerberg, the market (falafels, crepes, nom nom nom) and the wool shop.  I’ve decided to try and knit myself an earflap hat for skiing, and want to try colourwork for the first time, so I needed equipment.  Hopefully it will result in something like this on the right.  Picture by Tienne Knits, the pattern designer.

Fernsehturm from the Wasserturm

I had a good bummel around the kiez, tried on lots of hats at a fabulous but pricey hatshop, and found a watertower and amazing view over the city.

As ever with Berlin, you have to be mindful of the history, the tower and adjoining machine shed were once a small inner city concentration camp, but it’s now a very peaceful place indeed with Berliners enjoying a quiet afternoon.

Sunday was a sun day indeed, absolutely gorgeous, and so I wobbled off on the bike again in a southwesterley direction, down to the Mehringdamm for a British Sunday Lunch with Danni.  Sadly no roast but the fish and chips and the company were fabulous.  We finally parted company around 4 which meant it was a bit late to head off towards Olympiastadion or the Grunewald, but it suddenly occurred to me that I was near Tempelhof, the ex-airport now park, which I’d heard lots about but never been to.  So off I went and found it.  According to Wikipedia it’s “one of Europe’s three iconic pre-World War II airports” (very interesting wiki actually, have a read) and it still looks fab, don’t you agree?

view of the radar tower and terminal

While the two main runways are still clear, much of the other hard surfaces are adorned with weeds, but this doesn’t stop countless folk from using the park in any number of ways: kiteboarding, windsurfing on wheels, rollerblading, cycling, running, ultimate frisbee-ing and playing a bizarre looking game which the internet tells me is called Jugger (watch, and be confused)….and those are just some of the energetic things. The sheer number of kites in the sky was mind boggling.   I had a lot of fun cycling around as much of it as possible, and taking silly pictures.  I particularly enjoyed shooting into the sun…

runway rollerblading

and the fact that even my leisurely cycling allowed to me to criss cross and circumnavigate, people watching all the while, without being overwhelmed by the scale of it.  Late afternoon autumn light is brilliant, the shadows are long and lean and it just feels like a special, fleeting, must-be-captured-before-it’s-gone treat.

fence between the terminal and where planes taxied to the runway

You’d think that such an empty place would be boring, but in fact I think it’s a boon to the city to have such a versatile space so accessible to so many, and for free too. So I’ve come to the conclusion that not all parks need flowers and trees.   I bet you never thought you’d hear that from me, did you?  I’m not alone, there’s a very nice article by the Independent about it, if you care for more words, but I must admit that I also loved my foray through Hassenheider Park on my way home, which was full of trees.  And now, I’ll finish this extraordinarily long post and let you go.  Auf wiedersehen, pet.


Endlich, and entirely by accident, I ended up in a position to take a picture of the spaceman in Kreuzberg.  I’ve been admiring it from the train since I first moved to Berlin but have never quite had camera, time and geography coinciding helpfully until now.  Just don’t tell me if you don’t like it as much as I do.  I don’t want to hear it.  I think he’s wunderbar.

ooh and I keep forgetting to give you an important newsflash:

The Bike is roadworthy!  I picked it up on Tuesday evening, fixed the light on Thursday and now even the chain is working beautifully after its application of oil.  Ok I haven’t ridden it much but I’m still feeling pretty bloody proud of myself.  This truly has been a year of doing new things and overcoming small yet significant challenges.  And big ones too actually.  Hmm…  Can anyone tell me how I take the next step?  In which direction?  Gaaaa…….

in pieces

Today was another beautiful day in Berlin, but I got up in the dark.  Yuk. Yet, as is often the case, there were compensations.  The sky was waking up in a most gorgeous way as I shiveringly crossed the Warschauer bridge on my way to catch the U to work.  I didn’t fully wake up til much later so the cloud painter was definitely a step or 3 ahead of me.

looking east over the s

It was also fantastic crossing the river on the Oberbaumbrücke but I couldn’t get a picture of that because I was on the U-bahn.  A shame because the reflections in the river of the sky, building and the men with holes in were most splendid.  And later on I treated myself to a coffee in the sunshine and had 3 really nice lessons in a row.  So I won’t complain.

I will share some frustration though.  Yesterday I went to a bike shop and explained in my best German to the man there that I wanted an inner tube 28 x 1.75 x 2.  Yes certainly, said the man, what kind of valve do you have?  Gah!  So the nice man showed me different types of valves and I walked home to check that I was correct in believing that my valve was standard, and yes I was and it was.  Boom.  So I walked back and the nice man sold me an inner tube.  And some oil with graphite for my rusty chain. Will it do the job? Who knows, but I told him it was rusty and he said, ok have this.  I trust the man.

So tonight I brought my bike inside and fought the good fight to take the wheel off, change the tube, put the wheel back on and make it all work.  There were spoons involved, that’s all I’m saying.  I followed the instructions of a bike expert online, and it all went quite swimmingly until I put the blasted thing back on and discovered that it goes round in a decidedly un-true manner, it wobbles.  While attempting to puzzle this out I noticed that I have a broken spoke which could be the cause  (although I also seem to have drop thingy problems) and apparently this can only be remedied by experts.  So to the bikeshop once more I must go.  Defeated by a rubbish little bit of metal. Pah.

Hopefully this story will have a happy ending.  We’ll see.  Watch this space…

blown it

Ladies and Gents, the saga of The Bike in Berlin continues to unfold.  You’ll remember The Bike’s first appearance and subsquent non-mover status on The List, no doubt.  You probably also remember the big day when I done gone and bought one for a ludicrously cheap price*.  Then came the getting to know you phase, when I could also have been tempted into believing that cycling is A Good Thing, were it not for all the other traffic on the road.  Parks I can do with great insouciance but the roads in Mitte are a little bit more challenging, not least because of all the pro-cyclists who would really rather that I wasn’t in the way.
But before I was converted to the bike lovers’ side, we had the vastly disappointing summer, when it rained often and much and confirmed that I am, if any kind of cyclist at all, certainly a fair weather one.  So The Bike languished in the Hof**, unloved and a little feared.

But after weeks of guilt and shame at my fahrrad failure,  I finally girded my loins and prepared to cycle to a softball game, only to discover that I had chronic puncture problems as well as an embarassingly rusty chain.  The Bike was having its revenge.

And so my friends, we come to the point wherein I must confess that I’ve never fixed a puncture in my life and I’m not sure that I’m up to it.  The week following the discovery was mad busy and then I visited the UK but now I’m back and I need to deal with The Situation.  Today I really wished that The Bike was available for riding  so it may just tip me over the edge and force me to confront it this week.  Internet at the ready.  Bike boys may be called for back up/post traumatic stress counselling and so on.   Wish me luck folks, wish me luck.

*bike shown is not The Bike, but the Elvis is great and the whole picture just pleased me
**not to be confused with the Hoff, although both are indeed German

I have often walked…down this street before

Sometimes it feels like I’m sleepwalking through life.   This last week or two I’ve been unable to shake off feelings of bone deep tiredness and what’s-the-pointness.  I can talk sense to myself, I can see fixes for the problem, but actually making the first move in the game is hard work.  Of all the things I’ve repeatedly instructed myself to do, I have only ticked one off successfully this week, but it is a significant milestone for me.  I rode my bike to and from work for the first time, and not only that, I also took it on a jaunt round Tiergarten and to the shops.  It’s a good way to travel when the sun is shining, but country mouse that I am, I do find negotiating my way through the traffic and unfamiliar roads more than a little terrifying.  Practice needed, that’s the ting.

Anyway, this week I had my last oh-my-god-it’s-too-early class for a while, I get a 7 week break (woo!).  Happily the class went well and I had the bonus of being able to go home for a nap before my afternoon class.  Such joy.  Perhaps it opened my eyes a little wider because I found myself noticing lots of unfamiliar little bits and bobs on my very familiar walk home from the station.  For example, I have wandered past this shutter plenty of times.

I always say hello to the boy and his space dog, but the scruffy tagging over his face has always dissuaded me from taking a photo of it before

but this time it seemed a little different.  The strange thing is that I can’t remember exactly how it was before so I can’t decide how much of it, if any, is new.  It might be the big black letters, the man in red or the cut&go box and tag, which I rather like.

I find it very frustrating that I can’t remember in enough detail, my shocking memory is without doubt one of the most irritating and at times saddening things in my life.  However, I’m fairly sure that I wouldn’t have forgotten this little guy who is diligently painting the mucky wall so he must be new.  He’s bottom left in the first picture, can you see him?  He’s tiny and blends in well but when you get up close and personal he’s pretty fantastic.

The truth is that taking the time to notice all the little things that make the world just a little more interesting really does make  life a little more fun.

Musik in the sun

When I finally made it out into the sunshine today I took my customary Sunday wander around Boxy.  There’s almost always music going on but the quality thereof dost vary most hugely.  Today there was quite a crowd gathered around some intriguing sounds so I mosied on over and beheld the very entertaining Tanga Elektra.

At first I was particularly taken with the drummers cap (see right) but as I paid closer attention I also liked the fact that the guitar case was acting as a drum, and the other dude (see end of post) was making seriously funky noises with a violin and a bunch of pedals.  And he could sing too.  I have taken my own videos of them but I don’t have the power to load them here so you shall have youtube goodness.

The first vid is the song wot I heard them do today

The second is a different song but they’re in the exact same place in Boxy, clearly they are regulars and I can hope to see them again.

This wasn’t the the only sunshine music either.  Alex kindly gave me a shout yesterday for an open air.  Apparently it’s another Berlin classic that I didn’t know about to put on the list but managed to tick off as a first without any particular difficulty.  I followed chalk arrows on the pavement to get there and the whole thing was extraordinarily chilled out.  The journey did take me a while though, and when Alex and Felix kindly escorted me back to the U they had to walk their bikes.  Must. Get. Bike.

So what’s an open air?  An unofficially party in some unused space a bit out of the city.  Basically there was a bonfire (Osterfeuer, it’s an Easter tradition), a soundsystem playing house and a bunch of people drinking beer in the sunshine.

As it got dark one light came on and everyone kept dancing.  Good summer stuff, although I did have to take a wild pee which turned out funnier than imagined because I hid myself so well in the bushes in the dark that another girl with the same mission nearly sat on me.  When I realised she couldn’t see me I said a quiet but friendly ‘hallo’ and she nearly jumped out of her skin.  Makes a change for it not to be me squeaking, hey?

And finally, LTN arrives tonight so I’m looking forward to more sunshine fun with him.  Fabelhaft.