it means nothing to me....

literature, alte bucher
I am back from Vienna, where it was sunny, and am in Dublin, where it is not. Bah. But I had an absolutely fabulous week. It was my very first time in Austria, and to my delight I was greeted with "Grüß Gott!" wherever I went. When I started German in secondary school, I was very disappointed to discover that the famed "pretty Tirolean greeting" beloved of the Chalet School was not actually standard German usage. But it definitely is used in Austria. Sadly, the trip did not involve falling into ravines or speaking a different language every day, as was the norm for the Chaletians. It did, however, involve....

1. Lots of walking about. I love just wandering around new cities, and Vienna is a particularly nice city to wander around in. We rented an apartment in Neubau, just around the corner from the amazing new Museums Quartier complex, which was so central we didn't have to use public transport all week - we just walked everywhere. Which is probably a good thing, as I did eat a lot of Viennes cuisine, which was surprisingly delicious (see below). The city is particularly nice mixture of pompous baroque madness, gorgeous Jugendstil elegance, post-war gloss (the most amazing '50s shopfronts abound, some beautifully preserved in stores that are still obviously extremely fancy, some kind of run-down) and slightly shabby Mitteleuropean charm. And it feels, unlike Florence, like a very-lived in city - loads of ordinary shopping streets as well as the more showy tourist-friendly stuff. I loved it.

2. Speaking auf Deutsch. As you may know, although I did German at university I never spent enough time in the country to actually speak the language with confidence. I spent 2 months in Berlin in 1995, which was great but I didn't speak much Deutsch because (a) I didn't get a job and (b) every time I spoke to someone and they realised I was an English speaker, they would just reply in English. I really should have spent a whole year in Deutschland before my fourth and final year of college, but I refused because I didn't want to go away on my own. Yes, I was a stupid baby. So I am in the strange situation of being able to understand German speakers and read German books and magazines with ease but being convinced I sound practically half-witted whenever I open my mouth. However, I always discover that my spoken German is not half as bad as I fear it is whenever I get the opportunity to speak it with someone who doesn't insist on answering in English. Luckily, the Viennese seem to realise that if you can clearly understand what they initially say to you and can reply in basically correct German, they don't have to switch to English.

3. Seeing amazing art. I loved Klimt as a teenager and unlike some of my other teen 19th Century Art faves (the Impressionists, the Pre-Raphaelites), I still love him now. I love the flat decorative, graphic use of colour, but more than all the gorgeous gaudiness, there's something so incredibly beautiful and satisfying and pure about the lines of his figures. Seeing The Kiss is a bit strange, though, as it's so ridiculously familiar it kind of still feels like a poster. The others, in both the Schloss Belvedere, the Leopold Museum (filled with Klimt and the awesome Schiele - my fave of all the museums we visited) and the Secession building, were fantastic and reminded me how wonderful it is to experience art you really love rather than just feel apathetic about, like the 10 zillion boring wannabe-Rubens paintings in the Nationalgalerie.

4. Buying books. I really like reading in German and have subscriptions to a few Deutschy magazines, which is why I knew in advance about a few books I wanted to buy over there; yes, there's Amazon.de, but this way I could flick through the books to see if they were as interesting as the magazine reviews and features suggested, which turned out to be a good idea. A few months ago I had read a lot about TV presenter Sarah Kuttner and her blackly comic debut novel Mängelexemplar, about a young woman's experiences with depression. Kuttner seemed likeable and the book seemed quite intriguing.

Then, however, I saw the print ads, which read "Eine Depression ist eine Fucking Event!" This is annoying both for the celebrated Germanic Pointless Use of English Words and for the generally obnoxious, childishly provocative tone. And it put me off a bit. But when I saw it in a bookshop I picked it up anyway, and realised that the "fucking event" line, the opening words of the novel, is spoken by the heroine's new psychiatrist and the heroine herself reacts with horrified mockery. So I bought the book, and I really, really like it - it's very convincing and she writes about depression with self-awareness and humour. If you can read Deutsch, I recommend it, and if not, I hope it gets translated (and translated well). I just hope they market it better here than they've done over there (although it's a bestseller, so apparently the "fucking event" thing can't have put too many people off).

5. Eating. Oh my God, Viennese food is delicious. I'm not usually into either Germanic or Eastern European food but somehow the fusion of Viennese cuisine works incredibly well. Who knew Schnitzel was so incredibly delicious? It looks disgusting! Also, I had the best potato salad I have ever tasted - I don't know exactly what was in it apart from 'tato and red onions but it was incredibly delish. As was the amazing spicy lamb goulash I gorged in one of the many restaurants at the awesome MuseumsQuartier, the former Habsburg-Stables-turned-museum-complex which was just a few minutes walk from our apartment. And then there were daily fresh Brotchen from the local baker. In fact, I ate so much vaguely unhealthy food that if I hadn't spent most of the days walking around I would probably now be twice my usual size.

6. Watching German telly. I just did this in the mornings, really, but I did manage to see an astounding amount of rubbish - including my beloved soaps Sturm der Liebe and Marienhof, which I usually just watch online. I did grow quite fond of German MTV - unlike MTV UK and Ireland, it still shows videos rather than stupid reality shows, so it felt kind of like watching MTV Europe in the old days when they had presenters and indeed music from all over Europe.

So yes, it was a great week. And I wish we'd booked for longer, especially as the weather, which was actually quite nice here before we went away, seems to reverted to a state of icy monsoon. Bah. I'll just have to figure out how to make schnitzel to cheer myself up...

Damn cyclists!

raaar master
This story could have been entitled "TV presenter drives carelessly and hits a cyclist". But But no. Apparently when you hit a cyclist, it's their fault for "veering in front of you".

crafty lady

how to be topp
Over a year ago I snagged some really expensive soft furnishings fabric scraps from work (it had been used in a shoot) and vowed to make patchwork cushions out of it. The scraps have been languishing in a bag ever since, but this morning I decided to give it a try. Several hours and a LOT of sewing later, the cushion cover was made! It's a pillow-case design (I used this pattern).

This is the front (there are two pieces in every row but one, where there is three):


And here is the back:


I should have been a bit more exact with the measurements and stuff, and I did end up sticking a pin in my thumb and bleeding all over the place AND there was loads of fabric fluff all over the kitchen by the time I'd finished. But I did it! And I'm very pleased with the result.

Tags:

i'm back with yet another five point post

fat pony like thunder
1. I am totally obsessed with ridiculous German soaps telenovelas. Well, one soap and one telenovela. I can't stop watching Marienhof (set in an ordinary Cologne neighbourhood) and Sturm der Liebe (set in a fancy hotel near Munich) online (thank you, Das Erste website!). These are some of the things I have learned from my new fave shows:

* Evil murderous villains can fall off cliffs, be presumed dead, then return to their former homes suffering from amnesia and a complete personality change. This is possisbly my favourite storyline. The evil Barbara von Heidenburg, who apparently once terrorised the residents of the Furstenhof Hotel (she tried to kill a rival with poisoned chocolates, among other awesome crimes), was last seen falling into a ravine while trying to kill her husband Werner. A year later, a woman who looks exactly like her but with slightly different hair turns up at the hotel, causing terror and panic. It really is Barbara, but she's genuinely lost her memory and is now the saintly Sylvia, who had no idea of her evil murdering past. And Werner, despite the fact that her evil old self tried to kill him, falls for her and they are now getting married (again). To make things even more entertaining, poor Sylvia keeps having nightmares in which evil Barbara taunts her and threatens to return. Which I totally hope she does. Last week it seemed like Sylvia was starting to remember her old life as Barbara, which is v. promising.

* Being a dirndl designer is a valid career option in the 21st century.

* If you find out that your child has asthma, even though she has yet to have an actual asthma attack, you must move to a peaceful dry climate immediately. Like, within a week. This means giving up your job and moving to a country where you don't speak the language. I should add that all of my sisters had fairly severe asthma as kids and no one advised my parents to move to Sweden, but there you go. Seriously, does no one have asthma in Germany?

* Rural Bavaria is really, really pretty, in a slightly kitschy way.

2. I've discovered that I really love working on photo shoots. I've been doing them for a few months now, and it's so much fun. I was out on one at IMMA on Friday, shooting a friend for the mag who is releasing an album in May. I love putting together a shot with a photographer, doing the styling and finding the perfect location. Also, it gets me out of the office, which is always good. But most of all, it's good to be doing visual creative stuff. I am a frustrated illustrator who tried to get into art college and specialised in design during her master's, after all.

3. I have a vegetable patch! Well, a dug-up piece of land in the back garden. Pasington's dad helped me dig it up yesterday, by which I mean he did most of the digging because I found, to my shame, that while I could plunge the spade quite successfully into the earth (ooh er), I was too feeble to lift out the earth and turn it over. Anyway, it's all dug up now, and I'm going to keep bashing away at it all week to break the earth up (why? I have no idea, but apparently it's what I have to do). P's dad is coming back next week to help me plant things. And I am also going to buy a smaller spade, as I can barely get my paws around the handle of the one I have, which is partly why it's so difficult to maneuver.

4. It is spring! The sun is shining! And I know that last summer and the year before we had nice weather in April and then it rained all summer, but surely that can't happen three years in a row. Can it? Please? Anyway, it's nice today, and I'm going to sit outside and read Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one, the other one, about whom Nicola Beauman of Persephone has just written a great biography. She's brilliant. If you like snarky, sad, elegantly written books about frustrated women in the 40s and 50s, you will love her). When I am not reading Elizabeth Taylor I will wave the spade around the veg patch and feel that I am doing something to aid my future vegetable empire. I feel like a landgirl who has spent all her life in offices and is now expected to till the soil productively, only of course when I get bored I can go back to my novel-reading and tea-drinking, so it's not really the same thing at all. Also, although we may all be feeling as panicky about the future as if there was, there isn't actually a war on.

5. Although I lack the ability to update here as often as I would like, what with my boss sitting right behind me in the office and all, I have succumbed to Twitter, as some of you know already, because it takes less time to write a single line update. It's urchinette, if you're interested.

daily (hate) mail

fat pony like thunder
We all know the Mail is a racist rag, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that they refer to an apparently mixed-race girl as "woolly haired" (scroll down to the caption of the second photo). But I am, a bit.

Tags:

rage, rage against the thieving of the bag

fat pony like thunder
I was having a lovely lunch with thedilettante in Gruel this afternoon when I went to check the time on my phone and discovered that the bag containing aforementioned phone had disappeared. Yes, for the first time ever, someone had succeeded in stealing my bag, right in the middle of a nice café, and everything in it, including my stuffed-to-the-gills iPod, my phone, my wallet (including my new student card) and lots of other stuff. I was trying to be rational and calm but I am so fucking angry and stressed and although the noble Patsington said I should remember that the people who stole my bag probably have a much crappier life than me (which is true), right now I hope their filthy thieving hands fall off. Oh, and to top it off, I got a taxi home courtesy of Patsington, and ended up with a racist taxi driver. Brilliant!

It was a nice lunch with thedilettante, though - little did she realise when she agreed to meet me that she would end up looking at bins in central Dublin to see if a mad Irish woman's bags had been dumped there.

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stellanova of arabia

fat pony like thunder
Salaam walaykum! ! I am in the Middle East! Well, in a shamefully fancy hotel on the banks of the Dead Sea, anyway. I am absolutely knackered as this is the first day sincde Friday that I haven't had to get out of bed at an ungodly hour (we get alarm calls at half six every morning - which, bearing in mind that my body is still on Irish time, is half four), so I have spent the day relaxong by bouncing about in the strangely soothing Dead Sea, covering myself in mud and rinsing it off (which really does wonderful things to the skin) and then lying on a lounger reading the New Yorker. So far this week I've rattled around on a jeep into the desert at Wadi Rum; walked for miles through the amazing ancient city of Petra; eaten my entire weight in hummous. All of this has been a lot of fun, if exhausting. Patsington and I are the youngest on the tour by a good twenty years, but all the others are really nice and we've been having a great time. Eight, I'm off to eat more hummous...

bleak expectations

worried mina
I've just watched the season 4 Wire finale. I think I will be an emotional wreck for the rest of the day. Jesus, that was amazing television.

Down in the Hole

darcy heart
As you may have noticed, I have become totally obsessed with The Wire in recent months, as is apparently my duty as a journalist. Of course, really I should have become obsessed with it five years ago, but better late than never. Anyway, there are many magnificent things about the Greatest Programme Ever Made (no, really, it is! It is!). The political anger, the labyrinthine plots, the funniness (it's absolutely hilarious a lot of the time, something that I think often gets overlooked), the fact that it's often heartbreakingly sad (whenever anything bad happens to Bubbles, I find it incredibly distressing), the theme tune (my favourite is Season 4's hip-hop tinged version, brilliantly performed by some young Baltimore boys). And then there are the characters, probably the most complex characters ever to grace our television screens. But there's something else about many of these characters: they're kind of hot. Now, I'm not talking about personality in these cases - Mc Nulty and Stringer Bell are hardly dream dates - but there's something about them... Same for Kima, Bodie, and Avon - in fact, the only person who might be halfway normal to go out with is Carver. Am I alone in my many crushes on the Wire cast? I'm probably alone in fancying Bodie, whom I always thought was hilarious and a wonderful character (he always looks so exasperated by the whole drug dealing business, and I love his interactions with Herc and Carver) but actually started to become hotter as time went on (he's only three years younger than me, by the way, in case you thought this was some sort of unwholesome underage crush).

In fact, there's only one way to settle this: a poll. Now, I don't fancy all of these people, but I can see the appeal of all of them. What about you, fellow Wire obsessives viewers?

Poll #1254621 The Strangely Attractive Characters of the Wire

Mc Nulty

Hot
3(23.1%)
Not hot
1(7.7%)
An awesome character, whether hot or not
4(30.8%)

Carver

Hot
5(41.7%)
Not hot
2(16.7%)
An awesome character, whether hot or not
1(8.3%)

Omar

Hot
4(30.8%)
Not hot
0(0.0%)
An awesome character, whether hot or not
3(23.1%)

Kima

Hot
3(23.1%)
Not hot
0(0.0%)
An awesome character, whether hot or not
3(23.1%)

Stringer Bell

Hot
5(38.5%)
Not hot
1(7.7%)
An awesome character, whether hot or not
0(0.0%)

Bodie

Hot
3(25.0%)
Not hot
2(16.7%)
An awesome character, whether hot or not
2(16.7%)

Avon

Hot
3(23.1%)
Not hot
3(23.1%)
An awesome character, whether hot or not
3(23.1%)


Hmmm, I think I need a Wire icon....

yet another five point post

fat pony like thunder
1. It is still raining. I suspect it may never stop raining. In a month or so we will all be going two by two into the nearest ark. It is all very depressing. I'm meant to be going to a barbecue this evening but I suspect it will end up being a plain old party.

2. I have caved in and started watching The Wire. It really is the greatest TV programme ever. No, seriously, it is. A zillion times better than the Sopranos, too - as Patsington said, The Sopranos in Shakespearean - big and grand and not really very much heart - and this is Dickensian - sweeping and socially conscious and funny. And also very moving at times. The people behind it really give a shit about the characters, and it shows. Anyway, we're nearly finished Season 2 and I have no idea what I'm going to do when it's over. I don't want to say goodbye to these characters forever!

3. Did I mention it was raining? Very, very hard? Sob.

4. I am reading an excellent book called The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, or The Murder at Road Hill House, which is about the investigation of a sensational murder in 1860. It's a gripping mystery in its own right as well as a fascinating account of mid-Victorian detective work and also looks at mid-Victorian attitudes to the police and the sanctity of the family. Recommended to anyone who likes Wilkie Collins (who based the detective in The Moonstone on Mr Whicher!).

5. You may remember (although you probably don't) my unfortunate tummy ailments. They have slightly improved thanks to the magic of an anti-tummy-spasm medicine called (I think) Spasmodal (I can never remember the names of medicine that I am meant to be taking, which isn't very sensible). But what's really helped is the biofeedback specialist's advice: drink hot water. It relaxes the tummy muscles very quickly. Also, it's free! So if you do get stomach cramps and spasms and what have you, I strongly recommend this magically simple technique.

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fat pony like thunder
stellanova
The Monkey Princess

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