bumble bees with furry bloomers

I may be getting a tad overexcited about spring at the moment.  There are streets and streets of new plants to explore, lots of magnolias budding ready to go, and lots of scented things knocking your socks off as you go past.  There are stupendous red and yellow striped tulips doing sunworship in a nearby garden, starbusts of mahonia oozing honey, and bumble bees with furry bloomers ambling industriously around them all.

These photos are actually from the Fingest Grizzly’s garden, not from Brizzle at all.

We have white and green hellebores which I find insanely beautiful, and blushing purple dainties with freckles…

and early bumbles barely dusted in pollen,  This one was just pulling on his furry bloomers and soaking up some rays.  Love him.


taking the long view

I’ve been back in the land of tea, crumpets, long walks on the hills and picnics in the rain.  It’s been lovely and I’m a little bit teary eyed because it’s my last day.

The week is a result of a marathon of organisation: choosing dates, getting time off work and writing cover notes for all my regulars and working out flights and connections; then finding places to stay in Herefordshire.  Many fantastic looking B&Bs were full to the gunnels so we ended up in 3 different places, all quite different but fab – we even got a 4 poster bed one night.  And after all that I still had to make dates for catch ups with my crew of lovelies. I’ve not precisely been a social butterfly (cue picture from a garden near Garway) but I really needed to see everyone and I feel much better for it.

LTN gets many thanks and lots of squeezes for a magnificent weekend in Herefordshire (and a little bit of Wales).   I hadn’t realised how much I’d been missing hills and views.  Berlin’s flatness is great for the bike lovers (of which more anon) but I grew up in the Chilterns and it turns out that I have a subconscious need for a rolling landscape.

This is on the Malverns and although we went the ‘flat’ route, there was still a lot of up and down.  My little legs were well tested and apparently I need to start doing a little bit more exercise…

and finally, for now, I just want to give you one very English picture of a walled garden near the border.  We found it completely by accident and spent a happy hour or so in the sun.  One day I’ll have a garden as lovely as this, and that’s a promise.

The rest of the future is alarmingly fuzzy at the moment, but if there’s a garden, books, my family and my fantastic friends then I guess I’ll be fine.

The Sausage Palace

Nearly two weeks ago, LTN and I went for a jaunt out into the green environs of Potsdam ( I’m in slow mode, sorry).  We were in search of the fabled Sausage Palace*, where bratwurst grow on trees and curry sauce flows freely in the fountains.  In fact we discovered not just one palace but  two: the utterly charming Schloss Sanssouci* and the Neues Palais (tha’s “new” people), and a whole host of other gorgeous buildings.  These are set in a delicious park where I got rather overexcited by the gorgeous trees, the abundance of absurdly purple and fragrant lilac bushes and the fantastic planting in the formal flowerbeds.  I took so many pictures that I’ve had to just gallery a selection at the end of the post.

I think I’d have liked Frederick the Great, he furnished his summer retreat quite brilliantly (in the ro-co-co style, as the entertaining audioguide carefully enunciated) with lots of flowers and vines, and every bedroom has double doors out onto the sunny terrace and the bed located in a little nook that you could draw the curtains all the way across and have a cosy dark sleep.  He also had a totally gorgeous little library which is round and made almost entirely of cedar wood (if memory serves).

All in all, LTN and I had a lovely meandering afternoon in the sunshine.  We entered the park up the avenue from the south towards the new palace, which is warm and pink in the sun because it’s made of bricks.  We had a cheese-and-bread-from-the-market picnic and played at statues before wending our way through dappled shade and balmy warm sun to the yellow palace ‘without care’.  The garden there won my heart, and after our tour we spent quite some time taking photos in them before visiting the Peace Church in the corner of the park and then finding a bus home as the sun went down.  Fabulous.

* editor’s note: The sanssouci – saucisson pun was perpetrated by LTN not me, I take no responsibility at all, but I’m afraid that the new name stuck.  Je m’excuse.

Falling in love with Linden

I’m astounded by how much difference the burgeoning green and sunshine in Berlin make to my mood.  I’m almost sure that Spring is my favourite season, watching leaves unfurl day by day is freshly magical every year.

When I’m at home I love to watch the willow colour up outside my bedroom window, it has a wonderful gold haze over it which fades away as the leaves mature.  Here in Berlin I found these two beautiful specimens in Volkspark Friedrichshain at just the right moment to catch a little of the effect on camera.

There is a haiku by Oshima Ryota which illustrates quite perfectly how very soothing these trees can be (and not just in aspirin!)

bad-tempered I got back

then in the garden

the willow-tree

Here though it’s the Linden trees  which lead the parade of green through the city.  I started noticing a fuzz of acid green, which swiftly developed into pompom-like clusters.  Other trees were still bare and brown but these popped beautifully against the grey skies we’ve been having intermittently and positively shouted in glee when bathed in sunshine.  Initially I didn’t know what they were but luckily Sonja was able to name them for me. I’m still not sure what species is predominant here though as linden trees are more commonly known as limes in England and the churchyard in Fingest is flanked by tall and elegant limes, but they don’t look quite the same as these or I’d have recognised them straight away.

Sonja also pointed out that the famous street ‘Unter den Linden’ was named for the avenue of trees that helped to make it one of the most beautiful boulevards in Europe, which somehow I hadn’t stopped to think about before.  Of course the mature trees were lost in the war, but there are new trees doing well.  In fact that are a lot of relatively new plantings all across town, and it really does add to the friendly vibe for me.

Of course I’ve already mentioned the cherry trees, which are perfectly lovely, but they do have rivals.  There are some spectacular clusters of magnolias here too.  Last weekend I spent a couple of hours reading in this glade, surrounded by bees and heavy perfume.  The trees are on a smallish patch of green in front of a tower block and I found them when I went to cheer for Amanda and Severin in the half marathon.  They’re all magnolia stellata so they have these delightfully, almost decadently languid petals of the purest white.  Sitting under a blue sky filled with scented stars and soaking up the sun I realised that as the days get longer and the plants come to life, I do too.  It’s as close to spiritual as I get and I can completely understand why so many cultures revere particular trees or plants.

I’ll stop now, although I could probably go on all day, but I’ll just say that if you feel at all the same as I do, you should read The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge. It’s fascinating and revelatory as all the best books should be and as far as I’m concerned everyone should read it.

My very own Kirschblütenfest

I’m celebrating my own cherry blossom festival.  Look what’s just outside my house (yes, that’s my house, my room is on the other side, but still, you can just see the front door bottom right)

in fact, the whole road is full of them.  It’s gorgeous…

So when Sonja and I went to the Tiergarten for Sprachtandem, it followed that she had to pose by the ‘einzel’ cherry we found

The blossoms look all frothy against the sky

I’m too sleepy for good words, hope you enjoy the pictures.

Why don’t you do it in drag instead?

Well, that was the week that was.  I’m exhausted.  I’ve had good teaching and not so good teaching, and I felt like I’ve spent my entire week in and around the school so I’m more than ready for the weekend.  I’m actually at the stage where I almost feel dismayed when people invite me out to do fun things because

  1. it means I need to organise the invitations in my mind and work out which I can do and which I can’t do
  2. I’m going to have to talk to people and I’ve lost all the words so it’s looking challenging
  3. it reduces the time I have available for sorting my head and my life out, and since I’m feeling organisationally challenged that’s a worry
  4. it possibly reduces sleeping hours

Yes I do realise that this is ridiculous, and underneath all that I’m dead chuffed to be invited to things but I am feeling a bit frazzled.  On the other hand, there’s a cherry tree which cheers me up every day on my way to and from work because it’s so beautiful and so beautifully incongruous.

Which reminds me incidentally of something which annoyed me this week.  The potential US Government shutdown or whatever it’s called was threatening to halt all kinds of government type stuff and cost the economy billions of dollars, which I can’t bring myself to care much about.  But it was also threatening to stop the Cherry Blossom Parade, which is unacceptable.  Since I first heard about the gift of the cherry trees from Tokyo to Washington D.C. as a symbol of the friendship between Japan and the USA (full history here) I’ve considered it one to be of the most beautiful political symbols that I’ve heard of and I definitely want to go and see it in full flower one day.  To get in the way of celebrating something so lovely seems just plain wrong.  The good news is that I’ve just checked the Festival website and found that it’s going to go ahead regardless, thanks to the Met police.  Three cheers for them!

So, anything to report from the week?  I had a delicious and full of good company pizza and wine night yesterday with Margarethe and Claire which was my treat for the week.  Looking forward to putting some more dates in the diary to share more chat and Berlin highlights (cupcake place, gardens, abandoned theme park tour here we come, although the last will inevitably be annoying because I won’t produce such good pictures as the set on flickr from the guy who produced this one).  On the work side I staggered through, among other things, my first C1 classes as an official teacher, my first (pseudo)exam class, and my first mistakes made in writing a test – that was today – embarrassing and best learnt from and put out of mind I think.

But why don’t I do it in drag instead?  A very good point.  That was without a doubt the most outstanding question I’ve heard in the last 7 days.  I wish I could say it was a question from a student in a class but in fact it was credited to me while I was chatting with a wine obsessed friend of Alex’s.  And I didn’t even say it, I’d made a far more banal suggestion that the Dragon’s Den might be a suitable source of financing for the nascent wine importation/distribution business we were riffing on.   Goodness know’s how he made that out of it, but I couldn’t stop giggling and I decided there and then that it’s a question that can and should be applied to all walks of life.  Most walks would look better if you were wearing kinky boots after all!

Thanks should go to Alex for hosting me in his totally gorgeous flat and cooking me utterly scrumptious lamb.  He also produced charming and intelligent friends, who came with more than usually tasty wine and whiskey, so I was treated to a very convivial evening.  And there was reggae.

In fact the weekend was characterised by meeting great people and getting out of my depth in random chats on such diverse topics as design, stockings and suspenders, poetry, the signifiers/signifieds of hipsters (no I didn’t understand either), the dying art of writing letters and the characters of wines.   Oh and I stole a jumper from a guy from Bracknell when the weather tricked me by being super sunny for two days and then perfidiously getting all cold and raining.  ‘Sokay tho, we’d bonded over memories of the anaconda at Coral Reef, and I’ll get it back to him at some point I’m sure.

On which note, I’ll leave you for now, before my ramblings get even more erratic….but I’ll say before I go that if you decide not to go with drag (boys) then you could do worse than model yourself on these chaps.  As the Sartorialist points out, they look like gentlemen who would definitely have interesting stuff to say in a most excellently beautiful way.

p.s. the red elephant is just there because I found him on a wander, and I like him.  I couldn’t let the flickrman have all the elephant glory now could I?