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Felix: posing at a mock castle with Michael’s SLR – Felix had such fun taking photos on our holiday (another post to follow soon, hopefully).

Antonia: loving the beach at Schonberg Strand, near Kiel, on our last day in Germany.

We had a fabulous time in Germany (or Deutchland, as Felix insists), and got home last Sunday. I have so many photos to share with you but our internet is broken! I am snatching ten minutes of internet time in a cafe while Antonia naps in her stroller.

Linking belatedly with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

Grandparent love

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We’ve been staying in a holiday apartment in Kassel, but spending a couple of hours every day with Michael’s folks. They’ve loved having us around for so long. We took these pictures in a restaurant known as the Waffle Queen, which serves the most remarkable array of waffles. They took me here the first spring I was in Kassel, ten years ago. Michael says he doesn’t remember it, but I have been itching to get back every trip since. I had a lebkuchen (christmas gingerbread) waffle with chocolate icecream and sour cherries. It did not disappoint.

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Nine Months

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You have learnt to wave and say bye bye. This sounds like a simple thing. It is not, it is not. On Sunday night, I ducked inside from Richard and Polina’s dinner table to fetch a glass of water. When I came back, Polina and her mother told me – ‘she said goodbye when you left’. ‘What?’ I said, astounded. Shortly after that, I picked you up to take you upstairs to bed. I held you on my hip and you looked at everyone, grinning broadly. ‘Bye bye’, they all said. And you waved. You lifted one of your arms, and you waved at them. ‘Ba – bye’, you said hesitantly. And grinned some more.

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You waved at your Oma and Opa today, too, when we left. I gave you plenty of time. You smiled and smiled. And then lifted one arm and waved, and my heart flipped over.

You are so very pleased and proud to be learning this social convention. It feels like entering a whole new world. You have to think about it, hard, and you seem a little amazed yourself.

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You love to giggle and bounce – I wake every morning to the round and cheerful face of a gambolling baby who dive-bombs my face to plant huge kisses, and then tries to climb on top of me. If you wake in the night and there is not a nipple in your mouth within seconds you give a cry of such desolation – you would think we had abandoned you in a mouldering cave. But you are easily soothed. You are squidgy and soft and never stop exploring. As your Oma says, you have new curls every day. I sing to you: ‘I love you ba-aby, and if it’s quite alright I need you ba-aby’. Felix consoles you in the car if you every get upset: ‘Anti-Banti it’s not so bad.’ Your father calls you Anti-Banti and Bubble Delicious. Dear, dear baby. We love you so.

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Felix: leaning on huge stone ball he discovered in front of a palace in a park in Kassel, Germany.

Antonia: I just love this photo. She was completely blissed out, humming quietly to herself – hhhhhhhhnnnnnnn – and gazing at her Daddy as we explored Luxembourg. Just so happy and relaxed. This weekend, for the first time, she waved and said bye bye.

We are one week in to a three week stint away from home. We are spending most of it in Kassel, with Michael’s parents, but we just returned from a weekend in Luxembourg, staying with my cousin Richard and his family. Richard moved to London from Australia almost exactly the same time I moved to the UK, about 12 years ago. I remember wandering some London markets with him before I started my masters in York. He visited me in York many times and I stayed with him in London frequently – Stansted airport was my main route out of the country and I made full use of the mattress on his floor. We would go out for an indian meal and then stay up late discussing life, love, and everything.  We both met our partners in the UK and now he’s based in Luxembourg and I’m in Norway. Last night we had a BBQ on his balcony and our boys capered around playing hide and seek and ghostbusters as we sipped red wine and Antonia chewed on asparagus. ‘It must have been a bit like this for our parents when we were small’, he said, and it was a funny thought. And a nice one. Watching our sons walking along, holding hands, is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.

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Here is Felix in Berlin as he prepares to go down the steepest slide I have ever seen. The boy has no fear.

And Antonia not appreciating being made to pose looking into the sun. She has the sweetest little lips. Antonia has mastered crawling forwards this week and cut a top tooth (and nearly a second one). I meant to try to take some photos of her crawling to reach her brother’s train track, but I have not been well at all this weekend, so will try another time.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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More love in the park

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I just love this photo Michael snapped of the three of us. Felix is showing me a triangular stone. We went back there today and he found a stone shaped like the tail of a plane. He insisted I actually look at it instead of just saying ‘hmmmm, that’s great’, and it really was!

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We are in Germany at the moment and Oma and Opa have been soaking in their grandchildren.

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Felix and Antonia: having the best time ever in a park in Germany this week. It was Antonia’s first proper swing. (Here’s a post about one of Felix’s first swings In those photos he’s a month older than Antonia is now). Felix insisted on pushing her high. She could not stop chuckling and Felix had a ball. They kept it up for ages. Just the sweetest things. These two adore each other. Tonight in the bath Antonia was laughing and laughing at Felix saying ‘monster!’ in a silly voice and splashing water around.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children every week in 2015. Bonus photos below.

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Berlin again

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We had a lovely time in Berlin despite the challenges of shepherding (me) and carrying (Michael) a three year old around Berlin in the absence of a stroller. Felix was a big fan of the pizza.

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And the dinosaurs and other curiosities at the Natural History Museum.

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We visited the real fish again too. Felix perched in Michael’s arms is certainly a recurring image.

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There are plenty of playgrounds and play-cafes in Berlin, including this play-cafe which provided dilapidated tricycles for small children.

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But the biggest hit of all was the Technology Museum, specifically, the trains.

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When we finally reached a steam engine you could actually climb inside, Felix ‘drove’ it furiously for more than half an hour.

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Chuff chuff chuff….

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Fishies!

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We’ve escaped to Berlin for an excellent change of scenery, some amazing playgrounds, and vast amounts of delicious food. More on that later. Today the weather slipped a little from the days of blazing sunshine, so we decided to take Felix to the AquaDom. Felix was predictably in heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite so excited. ‘Mummy, daddy, LOOK, fishies!!! Swimming round and round! Big eyes! Big mouth! Big tail!’ He also wanted to make sure that the fish weren’t going to eat the starfish, but we assured him they were all friends. It was so much fun that we decided to make use of our all-day passes and went back in the afternoon.

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One of the highlights was a little aquarium tunnel near the end just for children to run through. The face says it all.

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Wildlife park

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These are photos from a (very cold) afternoon at a wildlife park in Germany over Easter, which I’ve been meaning to put up for a while.

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We saw rabbits, pigs, penguins and raccoons but Felix was most excited about the little train. He was desperate to get on it but didn’t enjoy it as much as he thought he would as it was a bit noisy.

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Waffles certainly cheered everyone up. Then I even got to meet some old friends.

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Good Friday

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German Easter decorations are out in force!

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Our favourite ice cream cafe

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Also, snow.

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Sigh. We are so ready for spring.

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Felix never wants to take off his pyjamas in the morning and for once we indulged him.

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It has been a little stressful as Felix appears to be allergic to something in this house, but his ventolin puffer is keeping it under control. He just loves his Oma and Opa and has been practicing counting to ten in German.

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By the way

Sorry for the long blog silence. We’ve been having a wonderful time with my parents. We even went to a Leonard Cohen concert at the Halden fortress. Last weekend we all went to Germany, and my parents went to the Documenta while we hung out with Michael’s parents and let Felix run around in some wonderful autumnal parks. But then Felix got pretty sick and had to spend three nights in hospital (bronchitis/croup), so we had to stay away longer than we thought and are still recovering… More soon…

Documenta 13

As I mentioned a few posts back, we recently visited the documenta in Kassel. There were a lot of groovy people everywhere. And there was me, looking like I’d stumbled down from an Austrian mountain without brushing my hair. Which was pretty much true. Felix lasted about half an hour before I came to the conclusion that he does not appreciate modern art. Michael and I alternated after that, which worked much better. (Having a whole afternoon and evening to myself to wander around art exhibits was blissful.)

One of the nicest things about the exhibition was the way the exhibits interacted with the spaces in which they were housed. In the Orangerie, which normally functions as a science museum, there was an exhibition about the man who built the first computer, Konrad Zuse, which included a replica of one of his models, but also several of his futuristic paintings. It was interesting seeing the paintings as a visualisation of his thought process.

In the Fridericianum, the largest exhibition venue, there was an amazing video by Mariam Ghani shown on parallel screens, one shot in the Fridericianum, and one in a ruined palace in Kabul. The buildings are very similar, and the Fridericianum itself has been destroyed by fire. In one video, a woman dressed in black ghosted through the corridors, in the other, a woman in white. There was a beautiful narrative telling you the histories of the two buildings. The Fridericianum was built as a museum but also served as a library and a parlament, and burnt down during the second world war. The videos gave you the eery sense of being in the past and the future at once, and meditated upon the intricate histories of buildings – of change and loss and reconstruction. How in rebuilding, something is lost, and in not rebuilding, something is also lost. How public spaces hold collective memories.

I also really loved a room full of stone books. Some of them were replicas of books that had been destroyed in the fire in the Fridericianum.

In one of the galleries there was a stunning piece constructed of cutouts from Life Magazine on little sticks.

There was technology,

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and some very sexy plants.

Michael visited many of the smaller exhibition spaces around the city and said it was strange to see the town of his childhood so transformed.

As people were transformed, too, wandering through it.

18 months

Today, my darling, you are 18 months old, which is a pretty adorable age, and you are a pretty adorable boy. (These photos are from a trip to the park with Michael and your Opa during our recent trip to Germany.) You’re sleeping very well now, but more often than not you end up in our bed at some point over night, which means we wake around 6 with a little monkey bouncing up and down between us, saying ‘ogur?’ (yoghurt), ‘bow?’ (bowl). Luckily you’re content to bounce around a little while before we acquiesce and take you downstairs. The other day you were so excited on the way down the stairs that you said ‘ogur?’ ‘bow?’ ‘chair?’ ‘moo?’ (spoon). It’s very funny getting these insights into what’s going on in your head.

You’re really into sitting on things at the moment (unfortunately, including the cat) and have worked out how to climb up onto your little plastic deck chair. You come out with new words all the time. Recent acquisitions include scissors, shampoo, floor, food, knee, shop, walk, poopoo, away. You can say blue and yellow and green and you love it when I talk about the colours but I don’t think you can distinguish them yet. When we ask you ‘how many’ you try to count things. (You say two and four but not one.) It’s very cute when a bee or a fly flies close to you, and you say ‘bee! away!’, while waving your arms around enthusiastically. You are quite good at little two word phrases now, like ‘more nana’ and ‘dadda shoes’. When we were driving up the hill to the barnehage this morning (which is the same road we take to the swedish shopping centre, you said imploringly: ‘shop! more shop!’ You were very disappointed when I didn’t change our plans to suit you. I wish I could have.

Your favourite activity is to sit in the driver’s seat of the car with the car keys, playing with the steering wheel and all the buttons. Pretty much every time you see the car you want to do this. You also love busses, and point them out whenever you see one, saying ‘busss!’ Sometimes you say it when there isn’t a bus. ‘Can you see a bus, Felix’, I ask. ‘No!’ you shake your head and grin at me.

You are a sweet and cuddly little thing and love reading books with me. You are happiest when both Michael and I are around. Ah… It’s so hard to capture exactly what you’re like right now. I love when you smile and nod and meet our eyes, and when you trot around naked in our lounge room after your bath.

Knights (and other dreams)

We recently went to the documenta 13 in Kassel. This is a huge art exhibition that takes place every five years, pretty much taking over the town. We had a great time when we went five years ago. This time, we loved it, and I’ll write more about it soon, but I first want to share with you one of my favourite exhibits.

Nedlo Solakov’s installation ‘Knights (and other dreams)’ is housed appropriately in the Brothers Grimm Museum. It opens with a a videotaped interview with a Bulgarian actor/director, Oleg Kovachev, who is most famous for a role he played as a child in a movie called ‘Knight Without Armor’.

In the interview, he candidly talks about how frustrating he finds it to always be known as the boy from ‘Knight Without Armor’, especially as he tried to make it as an adult actor but failed, although he went on to become a prize-winning director. Solakov uses this as a jumping off point for thinking about his own unrealised dreams – he had always wanted to play the drums in a hard rock band, and he had coveted a remote controlled helicopter as a child. He also invented a dream – to own a real suit of knight’s armour. The rest of the exhibit consists of interviews with people interested in knights, including medievalist societies and the Maltese Knight’s Hospitaller, and documentation of Solakov’s decision to realise some of his own unrealised dreams, both real and imagined. This culminates in a quite spectacular performance of a knight playing the drums, and a not-so spectacular episode in which a knight attempts to stop a remote controlled helicopter from skidding around the ground. Some dreams turn out to be wonderful; some don’t.

It made me think about my own dreams, both realised and unrealised. Many of my dreams have come true: to fly in the sky like a bird, to study medieval literature, to get a phd, to live in a little house with sunlight on the floorboards, to live in Europe. Some I have revised – after experiencing Norwegian winters my old desire to visit Antarctica no longer seems quite so appealing. And some just haven’t worked out – as a teenager and young adult I wanted nothing more than to be a great Australian author, which now seems unlikely. And it made me think about my Dad, who has quite a few dreams (both realised and unrealised) that really shape his personality. The exhibition was whimsical and quite funny in places and I love that it left me with the sense that unrealised dreams can be precious things.

Hann. Münden

Hann. Münden is a town with a medieval centre, not far from Michael’s hometown of Kassel. Once Kassel itself had a centre like this, but now, since the war, it looks more like this. We had a lovely, if chilly, afternoon in Hann. Münden on Easter Friday, stopping for coffee and waffles to warm us up. Moni was born here. I love this photo of her so so much.

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An abundance of chocolate aside, it’s all about the decorations.

This display was in one of the shopping centres. Felix enjoyed walking along holding on to the little fence, swiping other small children out of the way.

He liked the purple cows.

Michael liked the watch-makers.

I liked the fuzzy goats.

Moni has been looking forward to showing Felix the rabbits for weeks, but I think she liked his snuggles best of all.

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I’ll be honest: sometimes when Michael whips out his camera and I’m not particularly in the mood, or I’m trying to eat my pizza, or I’m trying to keep Felix happy while worrying about whether we’ll make it home by nap-time, I don’t exactly jump with joy. But then he captures gems like these and I am so, so grateful.

I think I look tired in these photos (and we both need a haircut) but also relaxed, and confident, and in love. And that’s pretty much how it is.

Beautiful Berlin

It was a weekend more reminiscent of the gorgeous sunny visit to my brother last September than the rainy but lovely couple of days we spent there this May. Sigh. I would love to live in Berlin. I have thought so for ten years, and every time I visit I think it even more.

We went to our favourite pizza place twice, ate many falafels, waffles, and seriously good slow breakfasts.

We did one day of touristy things with my aunt, before deciding to leave them to it and sticking to the cafes, parks and flea markets.

Michael took lots of pictures. I didn’t take any.

I found an amazing fabric shop and bought fabric covered in fairytale characters, mushrooms, dinosaurs and birds. Now I’m not sure what to do with it – I just chose the ones I liked and didn’t really think about whether they would go together…

This is me gazing wistfully through the locked door on Sunday – I had hoped against hope that I could go in for a second look. (But now I have found the online shop! Hmmm…)

My aunt was super excited – about seeing us, but especially about seeing her son and his wife, who she hadn’t seen for over a year, and who are expecting a baby the same week I am. Here we all are comparing baby bumps:

I’m not sure what Joseph is brewing in this one:

The leaves were just about to turn.

Lots more photos here.

20 weeks

All’s well. Just starting to get a belly that doesn’t disappear in the mornings. The jeans I bought at ten weeks are still too loose though. I’m hopeless at buying jeans.

Last week we had an ultrasound. He (yep, he) is beautiful. We saw him stretch his arms above his head, and cross his legs, and hug his chest, and kick his legs like a swimmer and burrow into my side, and curl up like a kitten with his toes above his nose. We saw his sharp white bones and his startling face. We looked at him and we loved him.

I haven’t felt much movement yet, but they tell me I have an anterior placenta which means I probably won’t feel anything for a while.

Berlin was lovely. Sunshine and parks and long slow breakfasts. And it was so nice to see my aunt and my cousins.

Michael is now in Paris but the kittens are keeping me company. They are such social little things and are both snoozing on the desk as I type. (They would snooze on the keyboard if I let them.)

When I get home from work all I want to do is lie on the couch for hours. I really need to find a job that utilizes my skills more effectively. Still. It’s all part of the plan. And it is not a bad job really. (And I am getting lots of practice I suppose!)

Words seem quiet and elusive right now. But I will try to spend more time with them, to coax them back into my garden. (Funny sentence I know, but that’s sort of what it feels like when I try to write – like I’m sitting in an empty garden waiting for the birds to come back.)

It feels like it has taken forever to get to 20 weeks, and that it will take forever to get to 40. But it won’t, I know. This is the tipping point.

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Was nice, if a little cloudy. Lots of delicious pizzas, waffles, and ice-creams were ingested, not to mention German beer. Here is Michael looking pensive in a pink cafe.

A highlight for me was gate-crashing a conference on Shakespear’s ‘Troilus and Cresseda’  and Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ for half a day, and catching up with not one but two of my favourite Australian medievalists. This was so lovely, and as Stephanie pointed out, it felt a bit like home away from home. The papers I heard were about gesture and emotion, public and private, faces and defacing. I must confess to not having read Chaucher’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ since my Honours year, but I have a very clear memory of the brilliant Tom Burton demonstrating the pathos of the poem. (For those not familiar with it, it’s a poem about love and betrayal, with the backdrop of the Trojan war.) Unfortunately the European spring put on a very poor show for all the international guests, but they seemed to enjoy themselves anyway.

We also climbed up to the top of the Berliner Dom, and watched a concert of Schumann and Bruckner there one evening. On Sunday, finally, the sun came out, and I wandered through the Tiergarten while Michael caught up with an old friend.

Whilst I was lounging in the sun, a tall dark handsome stranger from Cairo made a concerted effort to pick me up. He told me he was a masseur and a body-builder (!!!). As I gallantly extricated myself, he told me he was happy to merely ‘look see’. Having escaped Criseyde’s fate, I was immediately rewarded by a sign from the gods.

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This pretty much sums up our weekend. Oh, and this.

There was a bit of this

and some more of this

and then we moved onto the green stuff.

Michael’s parents joined in for pizza, icecream, and a float down the river in the sun.

We found a park bench that makes tall people small.

And then, sadly, we said goodbye to Berlin and to my brother, whose birthday it is today, whom this city fits like a glove.

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On Christmas eve, there was a Christmas fairy.

And cakes at four.

Stollen and Lebkuchen. M’s brother decorated the table and I was mighty impressed.

M’s brother and his girlfriend gave me a silly hat and angel wings to keep up tradition. And an episode of Ausburger Puppenkiste, to help my German and to make me laugh. (These string-puppet stories are just lovely.)

Actually I did rather well with presents, including the white shirt and green jumper pictured above, and the absolutely gorgeous jumper knitted by my Mum that you can see below. M’s brother gave him some shirts and ties to supplement the one decent shirt and tie that he owns.

M and I were responsible for dinner. We learned a valuable catering lesson – if you’re going to do a starter course, don’t make it all you can eat! (Especially if you have eaten cake just a few hours before.) After two different kinds of cheese, and dried apricots and olives and dolmades and french bread we hardly had room for the roast carrots and parsnips and figs and sundried tomatoes and halloumi and salmon and couscous, and afterwards we could barely move. But we were still smiling.

Happy Christmas to all, especially to my lovely far away family. xxx

Kassel Christmas Market

After one Glühwein we were walking in circles, which seems to be the German term for ‘a little bit wobbly’. I still have the gingerbread heart M bought me four years ago. I loved the little Christmas train, pulled by reindeer, going round and round the enormous Christmas tree. And it all smells so good! Roast nuts, popcorn, waffles… In the last photo, behind the stall selling apple fritters, you can see the top of Christmas tree and the giant Christmas pyramid. Brilliant.

Chimneys and words and packages

Here’s another view of the Bingley chimneys. And the semi-frozen canal. The ducks promenade around here much as they do in Halden. The thesis chugs along. I reckon I’ll get it finished in early February, or possibly late January. I got my chapter one (extension of intro) nearly written. I felt like I was juggling so many balls so beautifully, and then I tripped and dropped them all, and couldn’t fathom the energy to pick them all up again. But it is nearly nearly there. I have sent it to my supervisors and will meet with them both individually this week – one tomorrow, and one on Thursday.

Over the past couple of days I’ve been getting back to the first chapter I wrote – the one that’s always caused me the most trouble. I still feel like I’m somewhat awkwardly hanging my argument on my textual analysis, rather than boldly using my textual analysis to advance my argument. The problem with this poet is that he says one thing and then he says the opposite – it’s really hard to pin him down. Anyway, pinning poetry down isn’t my ultimate aim, is it?

My technique this weekend has just been to write the paragraphs that need to be written, without wasting too much time about whether they fit on page eight or page twenty-eight. It’s been working, this close attention to detail, but I’m beginning to feel like printing it out and coming up for air. Tomorrow.

Vic has been a great encouragement. She keeps reminding me that I love this stuff, really.

And it is nearly Christmas which I am very very pleased about. Michael’s coming over to the UK on Wednesday, and we’ll have a few days here before heading across to Germany on Sunday. Good good good. (He’s had some horrible adventures in Norway this week – the valient snuggle-car does NOT like the cold. It got frozen, snowed under, and refused to get going in the Oslo airport carpark, but it’s ok now. I think in winter we’ll keep it to the temperate south from now on.) And oh – Mum and Grandma – all your parcels/cards have arrived in Germany safe and sound! Thank you thank you thank you! Apparently the postman was very excited to be delivering parcels from Australia.

More chimneys, and a happy song

I took this photo on Tuesday, from the same bridge as the last one, but looking the other way. Below is the chimney of our very own paper factory in Halden, glowing in the weird evening light. I got here on Wednesday, and am puffing away at the chapters… If by any chance you need cheering up, you might like to take a look at this gem, discovered by M. It is by an alternative German musician whose name was channeled to him by an angel. M says it is to be enjoyed in an ironic manner. Which does not preclude dancing and singing. A rough translation: ‘every cell in my body is happy’, followed by variations of the same.

Virtual Hikes and other Exciting Adventures

I had decided to console myself for my valiant decision to go to the library instead of hiking in the dales by posting a virtual hike – photos of my favourite walk ever. But the website which housed the photos has disappeared! Only one remains, pictured above. That day, the hills were frosted, icicles glistened on the gates and the puddles were as hard and bright as glass. And if it’s that pretty at the bottom of the hills, just think what it looked like from the top! A different shade of crystallized grass or rock or slope or sky everywhere you looked. One of those days when the landscape is music that you walk through.

No matter. Dedicated student that I am, I went to the library. At lunch time, as the cafe at uni was closed, I wandered into town and stumbled upon a German Christmas market. Not quite the same as being in Germany, but almost. I indulged in garlic mushrooms and fried potatoes and Glühwein (mulled wine), and bought some ridiculously overpriced domino stones. They were worth it. (These small cubes of soft gingerbread, fruit jelly and marzipan covered in dark chocolate are seriously wonderful. I’ve already eaten all the ones I brought back from Berlin.) I always thought the German word for mulled wine was a bit weird, sounding, as it does, like glue-wine, but actually the ‘glüh’ means ‘glow’. So it’s glowing wine. Which is exactly what it does, in your cold hands and in your belly. I then floated back to uni in a mulled wine haze for another two hours of photocopying and traipsing up and down stairs, accidentally causing an avalanche of over-stacked books-for-reshelving. All in a day’s work.

Berlin

I first went to Berlin ten years ago, on a whirlwind backpacker bus tour with my mum. It was love at first sight. It snowed and snowed. The city was covered in cranes and big fat blue and pink pipes. We did an incredible walking tour and went to checkpoint charlie one evening. I bravely caught a bus out to the Die Brucke museum only to discover it was closed. We saw the Reichstag. The new dome hadn’t been finished yet, so, like everything else in the city, it was still in the throws of reconstruction. My high school history classes came flooding back to me (admittedly they were only a year old). I couldn’t believe it was the same building that burnt down when Hitler came into power. There was something strange and beautiful about Berlin, it seemed the centre of history: old and new, broken and healing.

So when, two years later, I got the chance to spend a month there, I didn’t take much convincing (I took a bit of convincing, because I was very shy). I went with a group of students about to embark on honours in European Studies, and our charismatic head of department. The idea was to learn German. They’d all done some before, but for me it was torture: I’d never even heard of cases and declensions, and my impatient beginner’s teacher would only condescend to explain them to me in German. I also have a stammer, which makes speaking new languages difficult. I didn’t get far. And I was intensely homesick. At the age of twenty, I was quite convinced I knew the meaning of the universe, and was scared of anything, or anyone that questioned this, which the people I was with, and the city itself, certainly did. Nevertheless, Berlin continued to work its magic. We had a guided tour of Daniel Liebeskind’s incredible building for the Jewish Museum, before it had any exhibits in it. It was like being inside a sculpture of silence and horror and hope. We had a tour of a Russian prison by two men who’d been wrongly imprisoned there for years. And I discovered the Pergamon museum, with its reconstructed Babylonian gate, which still affects me in a way I can’t quite explain.

There are monuments in Berlin which speak of wordless sadness and terror. And there are new buildings, shining, all of glass, like secular cathedrals. And there are spindly trees like black feathers – to me it is a winter city. And – cocktail bars, and bakeries on every corner, and a large, calm river, and a spirit about the place that just delights me.

Documenta XII

Every five years, since 1947, for one hundred days, the sleepy town of Kassel is overrun with art. The documenta takes over the town, inside and out. A poppy field blooms in a city square.

Snow trees are printed on walls, and three dimensional squiggles hover.

We all look up.

Giant white leaf sculptures weave through buildings, inside and out.

Australians even get a mention.

These watercolour manuscripts were some of my favourites – faded like desert sands, peopled by animals, broken-down cars, and death in a jar.

A dress made of light bulbs.

And people, thousands of them, exploring, wondering, taking photos.

Here I am getting in the spirit of things.

And the lovie and his mother are transfigured by light.

Kassel

I am in Germany, hooray!! And it actually feels like summer over here. We have a couple more days here before we head down south to try some paragliding (fingers crossed for the weather). Very excitingly, my new paraglider has arrived (I traded in my old Fides for an Atis, which has a better weight range for me and is a bit zippier). Can’t wait to try it out!

Here’s the lovie with his beloved Strolch, in a rare moment when Strolch is appearing to sit still. Unfortunatly his affection is not reciprocated. I think Strolch is probably still traumatised from all the attention he got at Christmas.