A perfect day in the garden.

I spent the entire day in the garden, comfortably installed in a chair, looking at what was in front of me, and wasn’t bored a single moment. He must really be into roses, you might think, and partially you’re right, but truth be told, I had my iPhone with me, initially to take some more shots of the garden in bloom, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had Netflix on it, now an Obama approved entertainment device, and as I felt like something British, I started the original version of House of Cards, after I had made tea of course, as I can’t watch anything British without the most British beverage there is, tea. Over Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend—royalty, by the way, is quite British, too— I took a crash course in advanced manipulation and found Ian Richardson’s Francis Urquhart much more interesting a character than Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, you may replace “interesting” by other adjectives such as vicious, refined, monstruous, vile, evil, foul, wicked, elegant, cynical, or pleasant. Pleasant, mainly because I like a character, any character, well played, quite especially such a complex character as this excelling manipulator on the run. Well done, Mr Richardson. I watched series 1 entirely, intermitted with occasional looks to the left and to the right, to hydrangeas in bloom and ageing terracotta pottery, and if it weren’t for my cat and his dinner, I’d still be outside, watching series 2 and my garden in the moonlight.

Howards End revisited.

At the beginning of James Ivory’s wonderful film Howards End, a perfect adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel, Vanessa Redgrave walks through a beautiful cottage garden, it’s hers, no doubt, she’s so very much at ease, she’s contemplating everything with such devotion as if she wanted to soak it all in, as if these flowers, trees, and the mere grass she’s walking on were as essential as the oxygen in the very air she’s breathing in, she’s completely in her element, utterly invigorated—this scene is of no particular importance to the film, at first glance she might appear just as another elderly Victorian lady from another English period drama, her role is just a supporting one anyway, but to me, this scene is everything, to me, it’s the best scene of the entire film, however more significant the rest of the content is, it’s just so true a moment, there’s nothing better than to take a walk through your garden, paying a visit to all these plants you’ve known for years and years, watch them grow and bloom, branches, boughs, and trunks, leaves and blossoms, they all have your complete attention, every single one of them, and this attention is what takes away your every problem, some kind of gentlemen’s agreement, you care for us, we care for you—pacta sunt servanda, and on goes the hose.

Garden party.

It was supposed to rain all day, with occasional thunder and lightning, that’s what the weather forecast said. When you’ve planned to celebrate your birthday in the garden, that’s when you start to question if there is any justice in this world. So you set two tables, you spend hours looking for the other milk jug, the one you only bought because the other one might break one day, not because you thought you ever were to set two tables identically, you check the sky every two seconds, and then you check the cookery book again, is the beef supposed to look like that? The cakes out or not, that is another question, outside they’re no longer in your way, but they might get wet, inside, no, then you would have given in, that’s not an option, so out, out damned cakes, all four of you, you made way too many, you kiss your waistline goodbye and as soon as your guests arrive you exchange the coffee cups for tea cups because nobody wants coffee, you unpack gifts, you introduce, you pour the boiling water and wait for the brew to reach its full aroma, meanwhile people decided to start with crémant, no, let’s wait till after the cake, after?, why not now, tea?, why would anybody want tea?, let’s celebrate, let’s have that crémant, oh, it’s from Luxembourg, but you said the one from Burgundy was so good, or was it the Loire, I’m cold, can I borrow a pullover, oh, thanks, don’t you have one in beige?, black is so unbecoming, can I have coffee, do you have a Nespresso machine?, why did you set the table inside, it’s such a beautiful day, rain?, why should it rain?, don’t be negative, ah, the forecast said so, okay, so there’s a table set outside, too???, let’s go all outside then, what are you cooking?, manzo alla sarda? what’s that?, beef?, is it organic?, I only can have organic stuff, organic?, well, it’s from my father’s cousin’s private herd, you know, the one with the forests, the beast lived free, it had a name for crying out loud, so yes, it is!, that’s wonderful!—oh yes, entertaining is wonderful.

Summer in the city.

In any city, summer is strenuous, public transportation resembles sauna with a dress code, the air gets saturated with pollution and the wrong kind of perfume, you feel like signing any petition that wants to ban these repugnant heavy oriental colognes for men, unless you’re on a diet, then any repulsion is convenient, anything that keeps you from eating, you might want to sign anyway, think of the others that want to enjoy their ice cream cones, all kind of tourists ask for directions, nice and off-putting ones, and while they’re heading for a drink, enviously you sent the nice ones to a nice place, you have to face another meeting in a tie. Escape, I say! To Zurich! That’s the only town where heat is enjoyable, it’s got everything you need, lots of shady places, a lake to jump into, and a fresh breeze from the Alps. Besides—I have no scientific explanation though—nowhere will you find a bluer sky. That photo you see above, it’s not photoshopped, really, it isn’t! I cross my heart! It’s just that blue. Absurdly blue, actually. So blue, it makes me just blue to write about it.

Tea with an attitude.

It’s strange that all of my favourite teas are named after some men of nobility, English and Russian aristocrats like Earl Grey and Prince Vladimir, both obviously with a penchant for citrus fruits, agrumes, as the French call them, in fact, bergamot is quite elegant an aroma, especially when compared to the bitter-sweet smoke than infuses your air when brewing a lapsang souchong, no Mediterranean orchards come to mind, you’re rather transported to some opium den in 1920s Shanghai, quite depraved a situation, you wanted nothing but tea and refreshment and suddenly you’re an outcast looking for oblivion, although I’m suddenly remembering a rather smokey blend by Twinings named Prince of Wales, but as there were also opium dens that mirrored the finest to be found in China, with luxurious trappings and female attendants—why not to HRH The Prince of Wales? And then there’s that Frenchman Mirabeau, a count involved in numerous scandals before and after 1789, he rooted for both king and revolution, nobody ever knew whose side he was ever really on—knowing this, it’s amazing he died of natural causes. Liquorice and lychee in Mariage Frères’ Mirabeau blend reflect quite accordingly his ambiguity: a down to earth character as long as the earth is done in chinoiserie.

The hidden splendour of Hamburg.

I lived in Hamburg for 16 years, but I think I was not a very good citizen. On none of these 5,840 days I felt like entering my town’s town hall. Not for one second. Yesterday, however, when visiting Hamburg for a day, I felt like it. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell. Maybe my dark ages came to an end and I am now open for all kind of experiences. Anyway, I should have come sooner, it’s really quite nice. If they served coffee, I’d be there all the time…

A glorious day in Hamburg.

The weather was fine when I arrived, and it stayed fine all day—as Hamburg is as much known for its exaggerated supply of rain as Seattle, that was not a given, but it did. Lucky me! So I walked a lot, visited familiar places, found some of them changed, some for the better, some for the worse, and had a lot of iced americanos, including my very last one; you see, after posting my cup on Instagram, a friend of mine commented just two words: no plastic. And right she was. It’s amazing how one can support people cleansing the ocean from plastic, blame everybody else for our planet’s decay, and still sip coffee with a plastic straw from a plastic cup. I learned my lesson though, deeply ashamed of myself. And instead of showing off my mind’s double standards, I give you Hamburg’s natural beauty. Enjoy!