mardi 31 janvier 2012

The hardest step

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Forgive my absence on this blog - this was really not the way I intended it to be, not even getting around to wishing any of you a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year and now we're into February. I feel I have to start with a piece of news, something that's been running through my mind constantly these past few months. It's nothing incredibly exciting like a book deal or a wedding but rather the decision to leave Berlin in the summer and return to Derbyshire for a while. It's hard to say exactly when I made up my mind. Berlin has been so great to me; I've managed to make a decent living for the first time in my life, get a place of my own, live in one of the loveliest cities and have the most wonderful friends. It seems insane to give it all up and yet...there are other things I want to try and if I don't make that leap now, I have the impression I'll never have the courage or the chance to take that step.

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This summer will mark my fifth year as a Berliner. I remember that first visit a year before my move, walking through the Tiergarten in the rain to catch a glimpse of the Siegessäule, visitng the zoo and seeing the panda. There were the early days here when I did the CELTA and spent wild nights clubbing with Americans who've long since left. Five long years, half a decade and there's still so much to explore and understand. In my mind I've rehearsed the different stages; packing up my Berlin life into boxes, selling the furniture, cleaning my apartment and looking out from the plane at the red rooftops of Berlin as I fight back the tears. I try to prepare myself just as Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung do in In the Mood for Love when they practise saying goodbye even though I can't delude myself that you can train your emotions. Leaving Berlin will be one of the saddest things I do. Of course it seems more than a little desperate being 30+ and returning to the same small town where you started out when others already have houses and careers and I haven't even managed to get a drivers' licence in between.I've often identified with Dianne Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters, the kooky one who gets turned down for acting parts for being too offbeat looking, trying out different projects and always needing to borrow money.

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 Deep inside there's a fear that it will all blow up in my face. I hope it will be a transition to something I've been wanting to do for a while, something I don't yet want to talk about because I'm afraid the dream won't come true - does that sound crazy?

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Outside a Siberian winter has settled in Berlin for a while bringing frost, glacial winds but plenty of sunshine - the kind of winter I like best. The time here seems so precious but I keep repeating to myself what the our American guide at the Teufelsberg told us; once a Berliner, always a Berliner. I know wherever I go that it will always be a part of me. Thanks to all of you for your comments and emails - I know that you'll bear with my while I find my way through a somewhat uncertain 2012.

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In the meantime I've been doing plenty of baking because nothing helps you keep it together better than a cup of tea and a large piece of cake and also because it's the only way to heat up my freezing cold kitchen. Nigel Slater's carrot cake is one of the nicest I've made; light and moist but with the indulgence of a cream cheese frosting.

Carrot cake (from Nigel Slater's Tender, Volume I)

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For the cake

3 large eggs
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
200ml sunflower oil
125g light muscovado sugar
150g carrots, peeled and grated
juice of half a lemon
150g chopped walnuts

For the frosting

250g mascarpone
200g Philadelphia cream cheese
150g icing sugar, sifted
a few walnut halves

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan assisted. Grease and line a couple of 22cm cake tins.
2. Separate the eggs. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
3. Mix together the flour and sugar in a food processor until smooth then add in the egg yolks one at a time. Tip in the grated carrots, lemon juice and then the chopped walnuts. On the slowest setting possible, carefully fold in the flour mixture.
4. Beat the egg white until stiff then fold them into the mixture using a metal spoon.
5. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins then bake in the oven for around 40 minutes. The cakes should be moist but not sticky. When they're done, leave them in their tins for about ten minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
6. When the cakes are cool you can begin making the frosting. Beat the mascarpone, cream cheese and icing sugar together with a hand mixer or by hand until smooth and creamy. Sandwich the cakes together with the about a third of the frosting and spread over the top and sides with the remaining mixture. Scatter a few walnut halves on top and enjoy with a large mug of tea or coffee.

26 commentaires:

  1. I had wondered where you had gone... missed your pictures so much.

    Sometimes journeys are just that... they end and are not a final destination.

    I made mine to NYC from the midwest a lifetime ago. I have been wondering lately if it was a journey and not a final destination. Thinking of where to go next is exciting and frightening. I would like to think my next step will appear one of these days... a lit path in the dark. Perhaps it will for you too!

    Honestly, Derbyshire is pretty heavenly a place to gather yourself for a new adventure.

  2. Wow, all the best with your move. It seems like its going to be a pretty big year for a few people! Fingers crossed for the unspeakable dream.

    PS I think mortgages and drivers licences might be overrated, just a hunch...baking seems to me a much more useful skill than driving any day :)

    PPS Let me know if you're looking to get rid of your flat as we're apartment hunting at the moment!

  3. I missed your posts... Good to know that you are doing well, even if you had to take a difficult decision. I really hope that your future will be bright and that you'll enjoy being back in Derbyshire. I'd love to live there and I am looking forward to seeing your pictures of that place (ahhh, nostalgia).

    This cake looks amazing and so delicious!

    All the best with the move.



  4. The American was right, I think, about always being a Berliner. Listen, the thing is, you've got to do what feels right. Try not to think in apocalyptic terms. If you decide some day that you'd prefer to go back to Berlin, then you will. There's no law against it.:)

    It's not weird to go back to Derbyshire for now. It will give you a solid base from which to work on your plans. It seems smart to me.

    (It's worth remembering that Dianne W's character succeeds at her chosen career in the end.)

    I'm so relieved to see your cake for me, though, for some time...but I will be celebrating Nutella Day (see Bleeding Espresso blog for the details)

  5. It is certainly a big decision, there is a reason for it no doubt. Wishing you all the best with the transition.

  6. Glad to see you're still around. Sounds like you know what your heart wants you to do...just keep listening to it. And stay warm (baking is a brilliant idea).

  7. New beginnings always have that combination of sadness due to what we leave behind and excitement about what is yet to come. Enjoy the process as you move through this uncertainty. You will surely grow from it.

  8. I missed you Emily Vanessa. So nice to read you again.

    I actually smiled when I read that you're returning to Derbyshire. Change is always good, even if that means returning to your home town. The best is yet to come for you, I'm sure of that.
    Good luck with everything!

  9. Courage et foi ! Nous n'avons besoin que de cela dans la vie. Ton rêve, quel qu'il soit, se réalisera, si tu te jettes à corps perdu dedans. Je n'ai pas encore mon permis de conduire non plus ! ;-) Et je ne suis pas certaine que la réussite d'une vie se mesure à des choses perceptibles à l'oeil nu, comme une carrière, par exemple. Et revenir au "pays natal" n'est pas a priori un échec. Pip, le héros de Dickens, y revient pour le meilleur, je crois. Chaque jour est en soi une vie tout entière. Chaque jour.
    Bien à toi.

  10. @Deana - Oh how your words encourage me, waiting to know where my final destination will be. As you say, frightening but also exciting. When I feel sad, I often long to see the countryside in Derbyshire again so it will be lovely seeing it every day again. I just wish I could take all my friends with me.
    @Liz - It's nice to hear someone say something negative about driving because many people are shocked when they find out I haven't got a licence. Even if I had one, I don't think I could afford to run a car so yeah, baking seems like a better skill to have. Regarding my apartment, I'm afraid it's only good if you're looking to buy because my landlord is planning to sell it soon. I'm very fond of it but it's also glacial in the winter and boiling in the sumer so I'm sure you can find something nicer. Good luck with the search!
    @Rosa - I knew that you would be pleased I'm returning to Derbyshire soon and I promise to take some pictures of Belper for you :-)
    @Susan - It's true, I have to think of of it as a step forward but not something irreversible either and I'm pleased Berlin is still only a couple of hours away by plane. Thanks for all the encouragement, it definitely helps me feel like less of a loser and I also hope I find my chosen career like Dianne W. Hope you're feeling a bit better and take care. Bises!
    @P.K - My main reason for leaving is the desire to do something a bit diferent but also because I'm tired of freelancing. Not being able to take a day off sick, having pay all your insurance yourself plus a lot of tax is hard and I'm not sure I want the worry that goes with it in the long-term.
    @Christine - Hey there, so nice to hear from you and hope you're fine and keeping warm! I could survive in my apartment without switching the oven on every day but at least the pipes to the heating didn't freeze this year. I t may be a mistake but something tells me it's a good point to change and try something new so let's hope my heart leads me in the right direction.
    @Denise - Ah, you always find the perfect way of putting into words what's inside my heart. At the moment, I'm trying not to let the thought of leaving overshadow the good things about being in Berlin and am just taking it one day at a time. I know deep inside that my time here will always remain something special.
    @Magda - And I missed you too! Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I used to think that if you hadn't found your chosen path by 30, that was it but so many of us are still searching at this age and I don't regret not having a solid career or owning a house because I would never have made such great friends or come to Berlin. I sure hope you're right about the best being yet to come.
    @Holly - Je me sens déjà rassurée en lisant ton commentaire. Pour le permis, c'est drôle car je connais pas mal de gens qui ne l'ont pas et avant je me croyais toujours la seule! Je vais essayer de vivre au jour le jour en relisant Great Expectations et en me répétant tes mots pour me donner du courage. Merci beaucoup chère Holly.

  11. I'm so glad to see you back here. I've missed your posts. Whatever may come in 2012, take it one day at a time. Really. Just. One. Day. At. A. Time. And cake helps...

  12. Emily Vanessa, you should open your little bakery cafe in your hometown, you will bake your favorite food in the world, and no need to freelance)))!!
    Anyways, wish you luck with your big move, its always such a pleasure to read you, whether you blog from Berlin, or now from England!

  13. Emily Vanessa, I've been reading your blog for some time and I really enjoy your posts and photos. I wish you good luck and success in your new adventure!

  14. @Tracy - It feels good to be back so thanks for being so patient. I'll try to follow your advice to the letter and there'll be more cake to help me though those moments of doubt. I think your biscuits would be good too.
    @Kate - I'll keep that in mind and thanks for the encouragement. Baking will always be something special wherever I live and I can't imagine not having this blog either.
    @Fab - Hey there, thanks for the comment and welcome. It's so nice to find your blog too and see Berlin through your eyes.

  15. I have loved your blog in Berlin. Your camera work is just phenomenal. You're right about pursuing the dream, if not now, when? It's just amazing how fast the years go. As time permits, please continue showing us what you see. It's just lovely to be transported elsewhere.

  16. Vanessa, unlike mine your photos get better with the frost - from a higher level. You'd better move to Siberia, Yukon or Alaska! Have you seen pictures from Kamchatka, its many brown bears and other wildlife?

    Your blog-announcement arrived late because Yahoo spamblocked it - hope that doesn't happen to other readers.

    Well, after having successfully lived in Lyon and Mulhouse for three years - not the most welcoming place for English girls - and some more years in Berlin, Derbyshire might not be such a bad place for just one year, before moving on to other exciting countries! Enjoy your remaining time in Berlin.

    I'll envy you for being so close to Peak district.

  17. Il faut tenter de garder le meilleur en souvenir, et je crois que ce blog laisse une belle trace de ces années à Berlin. Ces photos me transmettent toute la douceur de l'hiver qu'il est souvent difficile de percevoir… merci à toi !

  18. I was relieved to see you are back. For some reason, I wasn’t surprised you are making a move. I have been transported to Berlin time and time again through your beautiful blog. Thank you. Life is a big adventure. My advice is, now that the decision is made, try to go with the flow and watch it all unfold. This helped me when I moved from Canada to Sydney Australia a few years back. I wish you well in your pursuits!
    This is my first response to any blog and is long overdue. I love your blog and look forward to seeing Derbyshire.


  19. I know you've loved your time in Berlin. And I thank you for sharing your love of the city with us. It has really been a pleasure as your photos tell the story.
    The time to make big changes in your life is when you're young AND don't have a family. That's what my daughter did and does not regret it.
    Good luck with whatever you decide!

  20. @Allison - I feel very flattered by what you say about my photos so thanks! I certainly enjoy exploring the city with my camera and plan to continue taking pictures and blogging wherever I may be. It helps me get to know a place and makes me feel better on tough days.
    @Max - Judging from your latest winter photos, I don't think you can claim they get worse with the cold, plus the light is so nice at the moment. Hiking and climbing are no longer important for me but I'm looking forward to visiting some great houses and seeing lovely countryside.
    @Melopapilles - Un grand merci à toi aussi! C'est vrai qu'on ce moment l'hiver est bien rude et j'ai un peu de mal à sortir très longtemps pour prendre des photos mais ça vaut vraiment la peine car la ville a l'air extraordinaire avec un peu de neige et beaucoup de soleil. Berlin est (et restera probablement) ma ville préférée et je suis contente d'avoir ce blog rien que pour me rappeler de tout ce que j'ai fait ici. J'espère que mes derniers mois seront formidables aussi.
    @Marieej - Nice to hear from you and thanks for feeling brave enough to leave me a comment! It's funny how you pick up on someone else's thoughts when you read their posts. Canada to Sydney must have been such a big change but it's heartening to hear such stories. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and go for it, even when it means a bit of heartache and uncertainty. I feel really touched by your kind words and look forward to sharing my experience of Derbyshire here.
    @Barbara - Your daughter's experience is an inspiration and I admire her courage and determination. From what you say, it was defintely the right decision and makes her happy so I hope things work out that well for me too. Thanks for the encouragement!

  21. C'est une étrange nouvelle, qui me rend un peu triste par ricochet (car j'ai aimé te rencontrer à Berlin), mais le Derbyshire est aussi plein de promesses et je suis impatiente de lire ce que t'inspirera cette nouvelle vie.

  22. (I apologise for my poor English. I'm German and English is my second language.)
    As I have been reading your blog for the past two years, I thought, I should at least comment this entry, because your blog was such a great help. I have an anxiety disorder and school was hell, because I felt like a complete failure and thought, I would never graduate or find a job, I would be good at. I was institutionalised for six weeks and somehow managed to get back on my feet again, but as I had spent the past months not caring about my life, my life had become very chaotic. In order to organise it a little, I started to learn cooking. That's how I found your blog, and I immediately fell in love with it, your recipes, your amazing photographs that always make me want to get on the next train to Berlin, but mostly, because I learned to appreciate reading again, or having a cup of coffee, morning sun in early spring, watching a few episodes of Twin Peaks once a month, and having some homemade pizza. A lot of grown-ups (I have just turned 21, yet I still don't consider myself as a grown-up) I know personally are very bitter and sarcastic. I don't blame them, they have their reasons, but I always thought that growing up and growing bitter were inevitably linked. You became (and still are!) my heroine, because you are creative and make your own decisions, you were brave enough to move to France and Germany (I was afraid of a short trip to Belgium, although I live in Northrhine-Westfalia). The only decision, I have been capable of making so far, is pursuing a degree in philosophy and the vague ambition to focus on logic and theoretical philosophy, however, I don't think, I would not have made any decision at all, if I would not have read your blog. I cannot thank you enough for this.
    I'm looking forward to read about your life in Derbyshire and I'm pretty sure, you made the right decision. A change of location will give you a new perspective on things.
    I wish you all the best. Love, Sabeth.

  23. @Rose - Merci beaucoup de ton commentaire et je m'excuse pour mon silence - je vais t'écrire, c'est plus agréable, je pense. Je pense souvent à cet été-là avec toi ici, le spectacle près de Hackescher Markt. J'ai tant de merveilleux souvenirs de ma vie Berlinoise et cela me serre le coeur à la pensée de quitter la ville. Mais j'éspère y retourner souvent et rester Berlinerin toute ma vie.
    @Sabeth - Sorry for taking a few days to respond to your comment but I've been absent from the blog. In many ways though it felt like I was meant to read this comment today because things are a bit stressful right now and I was feeling sad. Your words really brightened up my day! First of all, thanks so much for leaving such a lovely and honest comment. I wanted to write you a private mail but couldn't find your address. Your English is really good but I wouldn't have minded if you'd written in German either. It's funny because I often feel I have no direction, that I haven't achieved enough but then my readers make me feel so happy and I know that I wouldn't wanted to have chosen differently and missed out on hearing from people like you. I can't imagine what you've gone through or how hard it must have been to move on but if my blog has helped you through some tough moments then it makes it all worthwhile writing it and I'm glad I started it almost three years ago. I never imagined I could be anyone's heroine!

    I don't think you should feel the need to grow up. I'm over thirty and often still feel just like a kid. What counts is finding something that gives you pleasure, whether it's cooking, watching the sunrise, going for walks and not caring what anyone thinks. I grew up very much as a loner and an outsider, people in my hometown thought I looked and acted strange, not being able to relate to most people around me. It's only since I moved to abroad that I found truly great friends and the courage not to care about what anyone thinks. You probably know that I also studied philosophy, a subject that helped me very much. Strangely I no longer read books about it any more but something so abstract like logic somehow made the real world more bearable, does that make sense?! It's pity that we don't live closer to one another, it would be so lovely to meet you in person for a coffee but maybe it will happen eventually and I hope you will continue to go your own way.

  24. Ais-je bien compris... tu quittes Berlin cet été ? J'espère que ce n'est pas par dépit. Je regrette de ne pas être meilleure en anglais pour mieux comprendre...

  25. Oui Julia tu as bien compris. Je quitte Berlin à la fin de juin pour retourner un peu en Angleterre (et après on verra). Ce n'est pas vraiment par dépit mais plutôt parce que mon travail ici est si précaire et maintenant c'est vraiment stressant. La ville et la vie merveilleuse compensent bien sûr mais après 5 ans, j'ai envie de trouver autre chose. Mais ce sera difficile quand même de quitter Berlin.

  26. I missed you Emily Vanessa. So nice to read you again.

    I actually smiled when I read that you're returning to Derbyshire. Change is always good, even if that means returning to your home town. The best is yet to come for you, I'm sure of that.
    Good luck with everything!