41/100 — Sunday morning

AfterlightImage 96.JPG

I thought I’d treat myself today, and went to Simons Café in Friedrichshain and had the pancake breakfast, which I’ve been meaning to do ever since I caught sight of it when I had a coffee there some months ago. Thus starts my mission to find Berlin’s best pancakes. (London’s best pancakes, if you care for my opinion, are available in any Giraffe branch near you.)

AfterlightImage 90.JPG
AfterlightImage 91.JPG

Afterwards, I had a nice long walk around the fleamarket on Boxi, daydreaming about how I’ll furnish my flat, whenever I get it. A flea market might not be the exact place for me to find much – my taste is more … Scandinavian – but that’s the fun of window shopping. To imagine all the things that could be.

AfterlightImage 92.JPG
AfterlightImage 93.JPG
AfterlightImage 94.JPG
AfterlightImage 95.JPG

31/100 — A visit

AfterlightImage 74.JPG

I was full from a nice barbecue with my cousin and his friends yesterday when I decided that I needed to leave the house at least once. So I went for a long walk around the neighbourhood in the golden evening sun. Scarf in hand I turned corners wherever I felt like it, phone in my pocket, enjoying the lush green of the trees, wondering whether I’d like to live anywhere in this area. One thing I really like about Berlin is that almost every building looks different; there are so many stories in this city.

Then I turned a corner and found myself across the road from a huge abandoned complex.

AfterlightImage 72.JPG

This area is almost exclusively residential buildings, so I imagine this might once have been a school or office complex of some sort. A small part of the ground floor houses a music school, but the rest of the building looks to be empty; a good six, seven floors of it. I wish I’d taken a decent picture to convey its size, but the sign in front of it says that there are 400 small flats to be developed here.

AfterlightImage 75.JPG

Right now, though, it’s covered in graffiti, standing tall and silent in the middle of a community. Walking around it, I noticed an open door, so I stuck my head inside. Dust hanging from the ceiling, all I could see were more doors behind a glass wall, so I left quickly; not without noting the strange heat inside. Like the building was exhaling on me.

I think it was mostly the holiday evening silence that gave it this eerie quality. But as I stood in the sunny large open space behind the building, where I could hear no sound but the songs of many birds and the clanging of a loose scrap of metal hanging off a door, I looked up at the many windows – some open; some still with the curtains on – and I imagined all the lives that might be lived in there, right now. Without anybody knowing.

AfterlightImage 73.JPG

21/100 — A family day out

AfterlightImage 54.JPG

Hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend!

I spent today with family in the sun by the Müggelsee in East Berlin. To celebrate my aunt’s birthday, we went out for brunch. Our table was on a terrace far away from any shade, so we sat in the sun for several hours. I now have a terrible asymmetrical sunburn 👍🏻

AfterlightImage 55.JPG
AfterlightImage 56.JPG

After all that food, we went for a walk around the lake. I keep forgetting that it’s only April; the weather is too nice for it not to be summer; but then you look around, and most trees are still only starting to show leaves.

AfterlightImage 57.JPG

The afternoon finished with a spontaneous boat trip, some coffee and a slow walk back to the car.

I’m home now, watching Life on Netflix and making sure my Lindt chocolate bunny doesn’t have to live in a world where Easter is over.

How was your weekend?

13/100 — Pictures from Sunday

AfterlightImage 44.JPG

Today was a beautiful day for running. Almost a year after I last braved this riverside, I gave it a go again. This time, in 4-degree rainy weather, which is much more my kind of thing.

AfterlightImage 45.JPG
AfterlightImage 47.JPG
AfterlightImage 46.JPG

We also had birthday cake. This week I managed to burn it, so if I make it again next week, it should come out perfect.

12/100 — Home

I write this sitting on my parents’ sofa, recovering from the day’s first round of food before moving on to the next. This is a thing I get to do now, being back in the country – I can leave work on Friday, hop on a bus and go home for the weekend.

IMG_0294.JPG

We went out for brunch this morning in Dresden’s Barockviertel, a historic part of the inner city full of little streets and galleries and shops. It was a very quiet morning, walking just off the busier high street and visiting tiny expensive shops we’d never seen before.

IMG_0292.JPG

Brunch was pretty nice, by the way. I’ve been trying to eat better, i.e. eat more ‘intuitively’ and stop when I’m full. That did not happen today.

IMG_0293.JPG

It’s someone’s birthday soon, so it’s time to make last week’s cake again, this time with slight improvements. (The improvement is cocoa powder. Chocolate makes everything better,)

IMG_0295.JPG
IMG_0296.JPG

Tonight we’re having pizza, and maybe we’ll finally watch Moulin Rouge like we’ve been saying we should for years now.

What are you up to this weekend?

Thoughts from Places: Finding calm in Whitstable

I wrote this post over a month ago, but never actually shared it. I hope reading about summer in early October doesn’t upset you.

***

Every once in a while, I come into work, look around me and think, I need to book a trip right now, or I will start chewing up my desk
My trusted tools in that moment are the Google search for day trips from London and Trainline; during the most recent of those moments, they delivered me a promotional return offer for Whitstable.

On Saturday 11th August, my alarm went off at 5.20am. I didn’t think my body would be too thrilled about waking up at my regular hour, but as soon as I opened the curtains and saw the garden soaked in sunlight, leaving early felt like a great idea again. I left on the 8.25am train from St Pancras, armed with nothing but a journal, a book and a coffee.

The first thing I always notice when not in London is the air.

The difference is less striking now that I live in the leafy north, but wherever you leave from in the city, getting off the train or plane on the other end is always a little shock to the system. Whitstable was a symphony of smells right from the beginning: the slim streets that had that comfortable, clean smell of a small community (I don’t know how to describe it properly, but the village my grandparents lived in smelled like this: established and content, like laundry and gardens and the absence of litter), the smoke of a fire that seemed to be burning somewhere, and the salty, fresh smell of the sea. Then, further towards the harbour, fried fish.

I’d arrived early enough to come to an almost empty beach. The sun was out, the sky and sea battling out the fight for the deepest blue; small dogs zooming across the pebbles on their first walk of the day, chasing after tennis balls too large for them to hold on to; birds, everywhere. A little girl in a yellow dress stood on her garden wall overlooking the beach, singing her heart out along to the pop song blasting from the phone in her hand. A few houses further up a teenager sat on the same wall singing Lorde’s Royals, guitar case open next to her.

Whitstable is beautiful in its smallness.

I’ve lived in London for so long that I expect everything to be at London scale. As I explored the bustling harbour with its fish restaurants and market stalls, the High Street with its many shops, the castle, and the arts centre where I had my afternoon coffee, I was repeatedly struck by how much smaller everything was in contrast to my expectations. I would barely have checked my phone for directions when I already found myself at my destination. Life in early August was extraordinarily stressful, so being able to find everything I was looking for with such ease and convenience, in such a beautiful landscape, in such calm surroundings, was exactly what my soul needed.

The only time I wasn’t sure where I’d end up was when I headed east on the beach along the Tankerton Slopes, propelled by curiosity and the beauty of the many colourful beach huts that just kept coming, and I started to doubt whether I’d ever see food again. I ended up having lunch in a lovely little café overlooking the sea, where I sat reading for an hour afterwards until my nose (and only my nose?!) was sunburnt.

I enjoy taking these little trips on my own.

There are obvious downsides to going alone, of course. When I’m excited about something I like to share it, so in the absence of someone to share it with, I resorted to Instagram Stories, which made me pick up my phone more often than I would’ve done otherwise.

But alone, I’m able to walk wherever I want and pause whenever I want. I don’t have to find topics of conversation to fill the long stretches of beach to be walked. I can dip into every little shop I see in and leave again after a few seconds. I can sit on the dusty floor to photograph a pile of oysters and play around with my camera settings until I get it right. I can sit on a bench and read for twenty minutes just because I come across a bench and feel like reading in that moment.

Fittingly, this trip’s book companion was The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell, who writes:

Being alone in the natural world feels like my default setting. On my own, my relationship with the world feels purer, unmediated by social considerations. I imagine that most people’s biographies would contain the history of their relationship with others, and that periods of solitude would be intermissions, gaps of no account in the story of their lives. I feel my own story is that of all the times I have spent alone. [...] Empathy is not a zero sum game; caring about nature does not mean you care less about other people. It is more a matter of self-sufficiency. It is not that I do not care for other people, but rather that I do not depend on having others around me in order to feel whole.

I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the ‘emotional self-sufficiency’ Mr Ansell speaks of, but this passage felt relevant. I’ve never depended on others to entertain me, and I often actively seek out alone time. Could I walk for days and weeks alone in the wilderness? I don’t know. Do I want to? I don’t know! But whenever I go on a day trip alone, nobody and nothing is missing. Not all of the time I spend alone is down to choice; but during those days, it’s exactly what I need. Maybe there is a person out there who will be my perfect travel companion. But until I meet them, I think I’m alright.