lundi 11 avril 2011

Nobody belongs here more than you

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There have been many long nights when I lay in bed, tossing and turning, pursued by demons which I struggled to keep from the door. Sometimes because of a particular problem, other times because of fundamental questions going round in my head about the kind of life I lead and whether I would really ever achieve anything. I worry about the instablilty of the future, about not being qualified to do anything else, about having no talent to produce anything artistic. I'm often suspicious of happiness, knowing that with a blue sky must also come dark clouds, that both sides are necessary. That doesn't mean I'm a gloomy person, far from it, but simply that I'm cautious and prefer not to push my luck, even if it means missing out. Recently though I've managed to sleep well, knowing that everything looks better in the morning after a cup of tea. There's still the dilemma of what to do in the long-term but that's something that will always be with me, the demon that refuses to go away.

Last Sunday morning I got up early before the church bells had rung, making my way through quiet streets to the nearby Bürgerpark and to the row of cherry blossom trees behind Wollankstraße S-Bahn station which I discovered last year. The emotion was no less great though as I took my time, wandering from tree to tree, walking over their petals scattered on the ground in different shades of pink. I have no idea how long they've been there but I like to think of them springing up after the Wall fell whose border that strip of land must have marked, such beauty and delicacy after such ugliness.

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In the park outside where I live

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Close to Winterfeldplatz where there is always a stunning array of tulips

Last Sunday afternoon, I finally got a chance to meet up with with the lovely Kat who's staying in Berlin until summer. Sipping a large milky coffee in a cool place selling 50s and 60s memorabilia, I felt I had met a kindred spirit and am already looking forward to the next few months. We headed over to the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts), close to the Brandenburg Gate, to hear some prominent people in the theatre reminisce about GDR poet and writer Heiner Müller, in between extracts of his reading. There was the clinking of teacups against saucers, a woman whose baby in a striped suit crawled under the chairs clutching a crayon and the man next to me who continually asked me to spell German names I hadn't heard the first time. From the large glass windows of the auditorium, I could see the sun setting on the Brandenburg Gate, pick out the isolated figures of visitors in the Reichstag dome and see the chairs on balconies of the modern building oppsite. I wondered how all this had looked before reunification, that the Berlin I know must be so different from the people we were listening to and realised once again that such a divided and complex city reflects who I am, pulled in conflicting directions, haunted by the past and forever searching for a way to move forward but then again, I wouldn't want it any different.

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Waiting for the sun

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At Café Sorgenfrei in Schöneberg

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Guess who?

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Cool retro stuff you can buy

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After the 5 Uhr Tee at the Akadamie der Künste about Heiner Müller

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The Quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate in the evening sun

Chocolate chip shortbread

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A final cookie recipe I found on Mingou's blog, originally from Pascale Weeks. Of all the cookies I've made, these might be the most popular, even making the most hardline dieters weak at the knees or prompting some readers to accuse me of trying to kill them by posting the photo above. But they're so easy that there's no reason why you can't also make your own. The original recipe calls for chocolate chips but I'm not too happy with the quality of the chocolate used in the supermarket ones so preferred to chop my own chocolate into chunks.

For about 40 shortbreads

300g flour
100g brown sugar
200g very soft butter
40ml milk
100g chocolate chips or chocolate chopped into chunks (see above)

1. Pour the flour and sugar into a large bowl and combine. Add in the butter cut into rough cubes and mix in with your fingers.
2. Add the milk and the chocolate and mix again until the dough forms a ball.
3. On a worktop sprinkled with flour or covered with some greaseproof paper, roll the dough so it forms a long sausage shape around 3.5cm in diameter. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
4. When the time's up, remove the dough from the fridge, preheat the oven to 180°C. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into slices about 1cm thick and place them on a lined baking sheet. Place in the oven for around 10 minutes or until the edges begin to turn pale golden. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

24 commentaires:

  1. Wonderful clicks of the blossoms! Berlin is such an interesting place and great for taking pictures.

    Those shortbread cookies look so tempting! That is something I love!

    Like you, I have demons that come when I try to go to sleep or that refuse to let me sleep in the morning...



  2. Beautiful spring photos, cookies most tempting.

  3. Lovely images of spring!

    I think we all have thoughts, at times, like those you've described. They help us - motivate us - to grow as artists, as people.

  4. Such lovely photographs......what happened to those demons at the door? :-)

  5. I am such an insomniac and anything is an excuse to lie awake. I have tried using it to think about good things and have waking dreams but... I should so like to sleep. A loop of your beautiful spring photos might do it... but those retro goodies in the shop would have me up again wondering what would be good to put where in my kitchen. Cookies look wonderful... since I've made chocolate chip cookies 2 weeks in a row.. maybe a change would be good!

  6. See the gravy boat upper left in the photo of kitchen items? I used to own one of those, it came from my grandmother's house. It's gone now, who knows where. When we downsized so many tangible memories were ejected . It was a jolt to see it, haven't thought about it in years, but seeing it again makes me miss it and miss my grandmother. I know those thoughts you have at night, most of of do. I think they're with us to the end.

  7. This post is so very thought provoking. You have me thinking about so many things - choices, freedom, beauty, time... Wonderful.

  8. @Rosa - I'm glad I'm not alone in having demons.
    @Sasa - Yep, although I'm out of focus.
    @P.K - Oh thanks, glad you like them.
    @Lecia - That's so true. I remember you wrote a while back about your kids having trouble sleeping and it reminded me of my own experience. Everyone has their own worries or issues but I think we need to learn to live with them and manage them, rather than simply trying to get rid of them altogether.
    Haddock - Well they're still lurking but maybe they don't mind letting me sleep a bit longer.
    @Deana - It must be awful to lie awake so often though maybe you get used to it if it's your normal habit. The early hours of the morning can get pretty lonely although I too have had waking dreams and find them strange. I'm sure you'd find plenty of nice kitchen stuff to buy at the café.
    @AM - So glad my photos brought back fond memories of your grandmother. I hadn't thought about it but we also used to have a gravy boat, so charming. Guess you'll be coming over to Germany soon, no? Hope spring is in full bloom when you get here.
    @Denise - Oh thanks Denise, I alwys think that when I read your posts so it's lovely to hear that from such a talented writer!

  9. Tu es incroyable !
    Je ne serais pas dépaysée si je venais à Berlin un jour ;-)

  10. It feels like a pendulum to me, the highs and lows. I swing from one to the other, and tell myself it is the hallmark of creativity.

    Lovely photos to tumble into, and I am glad I found my way to your blog by way of Hila's.

  11. My dear, I know exactly how you feel. We must meet up soon! xx

  12. @MM - Je suis ravie que ça te plaise et tu es pour moi la reine des cookies :-) Il ne faut pas hésiter à prendre un billet pour Berlin!
    @Gracia - Hila's blog is one of my favourites so it's nice you found me though her. Thanks for stopping by. Everyone has these ups and downs but we need the tough times to appreciate the good, it's just important to hang in there. I try to tell myself that in any case.
    @Christine - Oh yes, that'd be lovely. Take care, xoxo.

  13. Thank you for the kind mention! I felt the same way, and it was a beautiful day, a great café and a lovely time at Akademie der Kuenste!
    What will be our next café destination?

  14. vanessa, these shots are so, so beautiful.

    and the cookies. oh. my.

  15. Il faut prendre la vie comme elle vient, le plus possible. Comme tu le fais avec le details des fleurs, les sensations d'un jour de printemps. ca aide a dormir.

  16. " having no artistic talent"....really, Vanessa? You must be kidding after having posted those lovely photos! You are VERY talented with a perfect eye for camera.
    Glad to see spring has come to Berlin; all the lovely flowering trees and bushes must make you smile.
    (And those shortbread cookies look marvelous.)

  17. @Kat - Aw, I'm so glad you enjoyed that day as much as I did and I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow. We'll have to try some of those cafés on your list you recommended a while back, xoxo.
    @Molly - I think the cookies would be popular with your family and thanks so much for the nice comment about my photos.
    @Gracienne - J'ai tendance à devenir frustrée sans savoir l'exprimer mais passer une nuit blanche ne sert pas à grande chose. Avec cette lumière et les fleurs, j'arrive à rester optimiste plus souvent. Bon week-end et bises.
    @Barbara - Thanks for your comments Barbara which always help me to feel better about myself. I'm pleased with the photos I take and think I'm improving but I guess it's the fact that I have this godlike respect for professional artists that I doubt myself. You're so right too about the spring: while taking the tram today, I was mesmorised by the freshness of the leaves and the cherry blossom at every corner.

  18. Your pictures are beautiful I wish I could have framed copies they are so lovely.

  19. I do know exactly how you feel, I sometimes lie awake at night worried about the consequences of my decisions career-wise. After all, I have chosen a very unstable and unreliable profession. But despite the demons, I still think the quality of life depends on those quiet everyday moments where you feel happy for a split second, rather than in grand life-plans. Life plans often don't really work. Does that even make sense? oh well, I hope you get what I'm saying here :)

  20. @Maris - A big thank you for such a lovely comment. It really made me smile!
    @Hila - Yes, I totally get what you mean. Often the big picture in professions like ours makes others think it must be terribly stressful and unpredictable but then again we experience things and moments that make it great, like for example when a class of mine was cancelled at short notice so I got to go for a walk in the park on a beautiful day and still got paid. As someone who's never really known what I wanted to do, a life plan doen't seems like a great idea.

  21. Vanessa, your posts frequently soothe the jumbled thoughts that dance around my head- it's quite comforting. And those cookies... you've gotta be kidding me. Yum!

  22. Thanks dear Nicolette, it's lovely to hear my musings help others sometimes. These cookies are perhaps my favourites, although I'm now dying to try your recipe soon.

  23. Thank you for the kind mention! I felt the same way, and it was a beautiful day, a great café and a lovely time at Akademie der Kuenste!
    What will be our next café destination?