Sunday, 10 August 2014

moving

CNV00023CNV00021CNV00020

This is what my walk to work (or rather: to the tube station - this is definitely not Knightsbridge) looks like. Used to look like. There are boxes in the hallway and bags in my room. In true London style, our landlady has sold the flat and it's time to say goodbye to the park outside my window. To observing the kids in hoodies who took shelter under the trees. To hearing the skaters on the ramps and the children in the playground. I liked waking up to the trees. 

Summer. I've been: working (good), reading Karl Ove Knausgård (also good), watching Gilmore Girls (very good, Jess forever), drinking copious amounts of Rooibos (no caffeine!), getting into oil cleansing (yes), listening to this New Order song a lot (my life ain't no holiday). Oh and I finally got a Netflix account. So many 90s romcoms! 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

a summer evening

IMG-20140717-00834

It was hot in Paris. We stayed in a tiny flat near the Sorbonne. I wandered around by myself a little, but there's something about Paris that is so similar to Vienna that I'm incapable of doing any sightseeing, or really, anything productive. One evening I ended up in a little side street for half an hour. I just sat on some steps and listened to the swallows. Swallows remind me of summer; I remember lying in bed on long, warm summer days in Vienna, listening to the swish swish of the curtains, the swallows crying out to each other, the distant street sounds.
It was nice. I always feel like continental European cities are made for walking around, looking at things, being at home in the streets. It's one of the things I miss most.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Snapshots from Copenhagen

IMG-20140722-00848IMG-20140724-00879IMG-20140723-00859IMG-20140722-00858IMG-20140722-00851IMG-20140723-00866

Back from Paris and Copenhagen and my feelings about this development are accurately summed up by this image. I do love continental Europe. Copenhagen was a dream. We stayed in an amazing flat (thanks, airnbnb!) where we assembled a number of simple pasta dishes and salads, watched cheesy films, and both read the Iliad. In the evenings we walked past the lakes to the nearest supermarket and watched the runners race past us. During the day we walked everywhere else and drank approximately 700 juices and smoothies and (in Peter's case) ginger shots that would make your eyes water. The bookshops were pretty spectacular.
Conclusio: Copenhagen is as fantastic as everyone says it is, but it also felt strangely familiar. All those apartment buildings, all those bikes, the well-designed supermarkets, the tasty bread and water. As I sat on a packed bus back to my flat in London - on a bus because the tube wasn't running to my stop and I had to take a 45 minute detour - it already felt like a dream. Exit plan: continental Europe.

Monday, 14 July 2014

reading and holidaying

CNV00002CNV00003CNV00008CNV00012CNV00017

Pictures of a perfect June weekend in Vienna, packed with sun, football, Edmund de Waal's perfect installation in the Theseus temple, and so many loved ones.

Since my return to London I have been reading like I used to read as a teenager, reading to distract myself: The Paris Review (interviews with Alan Hollinghurst and Jeffrey Eugenides; short stories by Clarice Lispector; poetry); Eleanor Catton (The Rehearsal and The Luminaries); Asko Sahlberg's The Brothers ; Lukas Bärfuss' Koala; The Iliad; The Rime of the Modern Mariner by Nick Hayes.
I have started to read differently. Of the books listed above, Catton was the first New Zealand author (other than Katherine Mansfield, whom I always think of as British) I'd read; Sahlberg possibly the first Finnish author; Bärfuss the first Swiss author in years and years (and what a fantastic book it is - here's hoping it'll be translated into English); and The Rime of the Modern Mariner is only my second graphic novel, and, like the first, was given to me as a gift.
All new to me because in my heart of hearts I'm always secretly looking for the next Middlemarch. There are few things that I like more than a truly absorbing 600-page Victorian novel - no surprise then that I loved, loved, loved The Luminaries! I've been stuck in my ways for a long, long time. I've absorbed much of the English-language canon; I've read more in English than I have in German. Ironically, my job has made me much more aware of how difficult it is for German-language authors to get translated into English; how closed off and conservative the book market can be; how much we're missing out on. I am now determined to change my own reading patterns, to improve my foreign language skills, to seek out literature in translation.
And to seek out literature in languages that I can actually read (sort of), but never really practice. On this note: I'm off to Paris and Copenhagen for my first non-Austrian, non-UK holiday in over a year. Send any tips and recommendations my way (book-related or café-related or something else entirely). I'm mostly looking forward to tall apartment buildings, cafés that specialise in porridge, and long walks.

Monday, 7 July 2014

here for a year

CNV00036CNV00006CNV00029

This is me in 2014: in Edinburgh a few days ago, in Vienna a couple of weeks ago, and in Sheffield for the Doc Fest. I have been reading novels and short stories and essays hungrily. I have started taking pictures with my grandfather's old camera again. I have made plans and jokes and I have spent my lunch hour with friends and I have watched football by myself in the pub. I have been in London for a year. I have been in London for a year and nothing sums up this year better than this: I have watched football by myself in the pub.

I always felt that watching football (or any other sport - preferably stuff involving snow) encourages and enables my favourite form of togetherness, a kind of lazy quietude where no one says anything clever, where no one says anything at all even, where you reach a level of comfort where you can just float away into a sea of banality. It takes years, perhaps a lifetime, to reach that point. Definitely not something that you get when you watch football by yourself in a pub.

A year in which I have learned to love those I love even more. Because every time I see them (too rarely), I'm struck anew by how much I like them. Or, as my brother said when he dropped me off at the airport, 'Maybe I'll come visit you in London after all. Every time I see you I remember how much I like you and how much I like spending time with you.' Same, little brother. Same.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

up

CNV00032CNV00025CNV00024CNV00033CNV00034CNV00035CNV00029

Last week I took the train to Scotland. The East Coast mainline is my happy place - sitting down for the journey up North always feels like a treat, an escape. Kevin lives in Edinburgh and he had decided that we would climb a mountain. Peter came up for the day, we all took a train to Pitlochry, bought bread and nuts and apples, and then started walking uphill. It was windy and quiet and excellent. In the mountains I feel free. When we reached the peak we found a place that was sheltered from the wind, sunny and warm. It was just us three up there, eating and talking and laughing. Then we walked back down and ate so much fudge that some of us felt quite ill.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

a bubble

IMG-20140606-00736IMG-20140613-00750


It was a Wednesday night and we were discussing the differences in mentality and temperament between various German speaking countries. We: an Australian who had lived in the UK, Germany, and Austria, and had settled in London. We: a Swiss person who repeatedly expressed regret, confusion, despair about his country's referendum on migration. We: me, quietly amused because I felt like I had had similar conversations with a wide range of people before. When German-speakers meet, they will analyse each other. Endlessly. Their perceived national characteristics. When German-speakers meet in the UK, there is an implicit understanding that we are more alike here than we will ever be at home - at home, where we often feel like we have nothing in common. Until we find ourselves in a beautiful flat in London on a Wednesday night, and realise that, as much as we wish it weren't so, countries do shape mentalities and sparkling wine loosens the tongue. (I don't drink sparkling wine.)
Where were we? In a beautiful flat near the Barbican which belongs to a cultural attaché who had invited us for an intimate networking dinner. "Intimate" "networking" "dinners" are precisely as odious as the words suggest and I'm still not sure how I got invited to one. At this one, however, I ended up at a table with people I knew and liked, and it felt more like having dinner with people who exist in that strange no man's land that I find impossible to navigate, somewhere between casual acquaintance, work contact, and almost friend. My shoulders relaxed slightly as I sat down.
A little later the violist who sat next to me would turn to me and say, 'I know it's ridiculous, but I only wear APC jeans' and I'd raise my eyebrows and laugh. A little later, I'd walk to the tube stop with a composer who, slightly tipsy, held a brief and touching, very earnest monologue on the merits and inherent timelessness of classical music.