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.
Chocolate chip shortbread
In the park outside where I live
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.
Waiting for the sun
At Café Sorgenfrei in Schöneberg
Cool retro stuff you can buy
After the 5 Uhr Tee at the Akadamie der Künste about Heiner Müller
The Quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate in the evening sun
Chocolate chip shortbread
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
100g brown sugar
200g very soft butter
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.