Life aquatic


At my parents' house in Derbyshire, there is the memory of running through sprinklers wearing just a swimsuit in the summer months or of sitting in a shady corner of the garden with my book drinking iced tea. Inside, the old brick walls meant that it was deliciously cool, the ideal place to while away the school holidays. Later on in Lyon, it was to the mountains that I escaped when the temperature rose. On Friday evenings, J. and I would set off with enough water, food and our hiking equipment for four days; there was the satisfaction of seeing the silhouette of the Fourvière cathedral become smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror and the sight of the heat flickering on the tarmac in front of us. The best part though was after we passed Grenoble as the road increased in altitude and I finally felt able to breath again. I can never forget the magnificent sight of the Meije with its immense galciers and three fingers of rock at the top rising up before us as we came over the Col de Lautaret . Getting out to admire the suroundings, a trail of British classic cars whizzed by and I remember that I slept amazingly well that night, watched over by these giants of rock and ice. Returning there, the mountains seemed like old friends; I took pleasure in identifying them on our hikes and could imagine no better place than here with the silence and wilderness. We slept close to where we would begin our walk early the next morning and when long shadows cast by the peaks above us appeared, we would go to a nearby restaurant for raclette and a dessert of fromage blanc and fruit. Getting up early in the dusk, our eyes became adapted to the changing light of the morning that was soon to begin. A little later there were often the piercing whistles of the marmottes or the chamois scuttling away. Returning at midday when many others were just setting off, there was the satisfying feeling of sore muscles and aching feet.

The Barre des Ecrins

La Meije

You might find it strange then that I left all that behind for life in a city. To be honest, I find it impossible to explain it to myself; perhaps I simply changed or realised that the anonymity of the city is what I prefer after all. Yet every summer I miss it; I find the city too choked with traffic, search desperately for that shady corner where I can feel cool and am unable to sleep. Sorry for my absence on this blog (and also on your blogs) but the heatwave last weekend made the idea of baking or sitting in front of the computer truly unbearable. I needed to get out; some readers will think it's a crime not to be outside when the sun is shining but with 37°C, outdoor activities weren't exactly appealing. Instead, I headed for the aquarium with its tanks full of fascinatingly scary jellyfish, delicate seahorses and starfish and a rather frightening shark. I found myself transfixed by the elegance of underwater life and wished that I could too dive to the bottom of the ocean. There was a morning spent at the Helmut Newton Foundation where I was amazed by the simplicity of the clothes that he wore for someone who worked in fashion, admired his collection of cameras, especially the Rolleiflexes and wondered where he found all these statuesque, athletic girls to pose nude for him. Then there were the trips to the cinema, the biggest number at once for years; it didn't start too well with The Private Life of Pippa Lee which I hated. After one hour I was not only irritated but also bored so snuck into a screening of the Ghostwriter in the next auditorium (the only advantage of mutiplexes, aside from the air conditioning). The next day though, while everyone was crammed round TV screens in bars watching Germany play, I had the charming Lichtblick cinema to myself for a personal screening of Wenders' Himmel Über Berlin (Wings of Desire) with the occasional whirr of the projector as the man at the front desk checked whether everything was in focus. Lastly, there was Marcello, Marcello with its candy coloured houses on an island in the middle of the sea where I'd only be too happy to spend an afternoon. Coming out, I wondered where I could find a pink gingham dress like the central character and have a glass of limoncello.

Amazing moon jellyfish

A healthy start to the day

At the Europa Centre

I love this girl's dress with Campbell's soup tins

Not everyone is a Germany fan you know...

Alone at the cinema

On a sadder note, the wonderful C/O Berlin will have to move out of the old post office where it was possible to see amazing photo exhibitions by Nan Goldin, Annie Leibovitz, Ostkreuz and soon Magnum. I've always been charmed by its peeling walls, the old basketball court with semi-circles still on the floor and the feeling of entering somehow into a lost past in an area which has sadly become too touristy. In the current Ostkreuz exhibition, I was most drawn to the photos ofSibylle Bergemann from Berlin. One was of her old flat close to Friedrichstraße, how after the wall came down the rent gradually went up and up until they could no longer afford to stay there. Before they left, they held one last exhibition, a "finissage" to say farewell; more than 5,000 attended. It's already heartbreaking to think how it will be when C/O closes its doors in Oranienburger Straße for the last time.

Frozen chocolate chip cookie dough from Joy the Baker - yum. Find the recipe here

David Lebovitz's almond cake was one of the best cakes I've ever made. For a start it managed to be truly spectacular, then there was the smell of marzipan filling the apartment on a lazy afternoon. It was damp, sweet but not too much and irresistable.


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