A summer’s day in Berlin.

I can’t remember a day with temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius, these last weeks. Actually, 34 degrees now seem quite agreable to me, it only starts to get really painfully hot once 38 degrees are reached, when the city is running a high fever so to speak, but when it’s still below body temperature, it’s no big deal, wear thin linen shorts—linen is such a smart invention, who ever came up with it deserves a medal, or two—and never leave the shade. But once you do, because let’s face it, everybody has to leave one’s comfort zone every once in a while, make it worth your while—just walk slowly and go see some great places. Berlin’s Mitte is not only any hipster’s natural habitat but has also some very nice places to offer, a little bit out of this world, an air of serene tranquility you won’t find everywhere, least of all on the Champs Elysées.

Summer guests.

 

Sometimes, when it’s really hot, strenuously hot, like right now with these 36 degrees Celsius (or 98 degrees Fahrenheit), I really don’t care for company. I like to suffer by myself, indulge in cold lemonade, refresh it with ice cubes every thirty seconds, these things melt in no time, like zero point nothing seconds, and try to read more than one sentence at a time, as War and Peace might refresh you with all these scenes in snowy Russia, but it wears you down with its obsessive joy for details, Tolstoy could never just let the little things go, the heavy lifting of these 1,200 pages, the one thousand and two hundred pages the details took to be described on, really kill you. Preoccupied with all these activities, I really don’t care for entertaining anybody else but me, I mean it, and please do take this hint: don’t ever come over for a drink! However, there are exceptions to this my summer rule: birds, dragonflies and bumble bees. They are the only houseguests I appreciate this time of year. They help themselves with drinks and food, nectar, pollen or whatever they are having, they don’t ask for the latest gossip or a reflection on the latest political events, they just tweet, fly about and hum, softly, pleasantly, and ever so soothingly.

The Comedians and I.

In the summer of 1980, after having visited friends of my parents in New York and San Francisco, my mother and I sent my father back off to Europe and continued our journey to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where we stayed at the Grand Hotel Oloffson, a 19th-century Gothic gingerbread mansion, set in a lush tropical garden, a place once described as the darling of the theatre people, the literary set and newspaper men. And a literary place it was indeed. The moment we sat down on the Hotel’s beautiful porch to have a cold drink, we were directly transported into a novel, all of a sudden we were part of the set of Graham Greene’s The Comedians. None other than Petit Pierre approached us, ever so elegantly, just like in the book, wearing a fine double-breasted suit despite the Caribbean summer heat, his perfectly knotted tie seemed to be mocking the indolent temperatures, a walking cane with a silver knob gave him even more grandezza, as he strutted from table to table, looking for some material for his columns. Of course it was not Petit Pierre, but Aubelin Jolicœur, so my mother explained to me, as I at the age of 12 was not that familiar with Graham Greene’s work, the Haitian journalist and columnist that was the inspiration for Graham Greene’s character who then took a place at our table, started chatting with my mother, even flirting a little bit, totally ignoring me, leaving me to sip my icy lemonades for ever and ever. And so, before he took us to his gallery with Haitian naive paintings, in a black limousine steered by one of his sons, I started to write one of the hotel postcards to my best friend Daniel in Luxembourg. For some reasons, I never sent it off but took it home with me, as a souvenir maybe, just like my mother took one of the ashtrays. Looking at it now, it makes me smile that while somebody taken out of a famous novel was sitting at my very table, I had no other things to tell him about than the beautiful hotel pool and its cool water. But I can somehow get my 12-year-old me – the pool situation was gorgeous indeed. I must return soon, this time with the book…

Two drifters off to see the world.

There’s no film more stylish than Breakfast at Tiffany’s, obviously because of Audrey Hepburn’s glorious looks, she’s always dressed head to toe in Givenchy, but Manhattan in general and her apartment in particular are quite stylish, too, the latter not really furnished, but it had some well-chosen, quite exceptional neighbours—some kept handsome author and a Japanese photographer into intimate portraits—and most importantly, a cat called cat. Cats, to me, are the ultimate accessory. They never bother, except when they’re hungry, they take great care of their fur, they sleep a lot, they go for walks on their own, they’re quite independent, actually, they’re totally aloof which has always been a signature characteristic of interesting people if you ask me, and they never cease to surprise you, sometimes they wake you up at four a.m. and bring a dead mole instead of the usual dead mouse. My favourite attribute, however, is when they visit you during tea time, they lie next to you, ever so nonchalant, and make you forget about your book, and while you sip your tea swooning over them, they have a snack of their own: some blades of grass that make your sandwich look quite dull. I’ve told you, nothing more stylish than a cat.

Car Wash, California Style.

My friend Katja is a very stylish girl. When she’s washing her car, she does it with colour coded accessories from the finest origin. Her car duster—I for one, I don’t drive a car, in fact, I don’t even have a driver’s license, didn’t know such a thing exists—is not only made of some fleecy material in the exact same red as her little Nissan, but also from California—I don’t know why, but anything Californian has a lush appeal to me, one automatically thinks of sun tanned boys, bronzed despite any zeitgeisty fear of the sun’s side effects, I’m from the 80s, I remember a time when bronzing was not yet a health hazard, lean, with sun bleached blonde hair, broad shoulders and narrow thighs—or girls, chose a sex according to your orientation—lying on a beach, or better yet, coming out of the water carrying a surfboard, one always should carry a surfboard, it’s so becoming, but I digress, anyway, Katja is the kind of girl who turns car washing into a sensuous undertaking, we both forgot her car’s registered not in Malibu but in Luxembourg and that any ocean is far away from us. I certainly couldn’t come up with a better style to wash a car…

Natural habitat.

I have never spent as much time in the garden as this year, a year, where temperatures started rising above 30 degrees Celsius in early spring, a year, where we had breakfast under the walnut tree before it had any leaves on it. Over my morning coffee, I witnessed every single step of a walnut’s circle of life, right now, I’d say the tree is seven months pregnant, the walnuts in their green peel are getting bigger every day. This year, I had rhododendrons in full bloom to my left when dipping a croissant in my morning coffee, and not the kitchen cupboard. I’ve been admiring the blossoms every single day from dusk till dawn, now I’m trying to ignore their decay when watering them, there are just to many to pick them off, it’s kind of a Sisyphean task, I constantly feel compelled to nonetheless as I’ve never been forced to water the rhododendrons on a daily basis before either, which is even more Sisyphean a task, I must admit. But a gardener’s work is never done, so we’re all kind of Sisyphean people, aren’t we? Yesterday, I restarted my eternal fight against snails by dispersing crushed eggshells, organic as hell a remedy, as they are the remains of our breakfast eggs, the shells are supposed to keep those little bastards from devouring our hostas. Over these last weeks, I’ve grown so accustomed to care for my plants every need, they now have breakfast before me, I started to carry my coffee mug with me when hosing them off with the spray gun in the morning, faking some morning dew. Or I tell them it’s raining. You see, plants believe anything you tell them, Sally Brown is my authority on this one, and many other things too, by the way—you do know Sally Brown, don’t you? She’s Charlie Brown’s sister, but if you don’t know him, I really cannot help you. But do try crushed eggshells.

Le Ritz UK

We had a guest who considers herself international. In fact, she’s got two passports, did her baccalauréat in Paris and over the years, she’s spent more time in California than some Hollywood actors. Much more. As a consequence, she constantly speaks four languages, sometimes all of them together, language barriers obviously are not hers to ever cope with, and so we happily adapted: over tea and under the walnut tree, we played Scrabble in three languages. Strangely enough, the extension of our vocabulary didn’t make it easier at all. So I layed out “Dieu” to get some help from above…