An essay on Russia and winter.

When lighting one of my scented candles, I felt the need for some olfactory inspiration and thought tuberoses might do the trick, I took a look outside and couldn’t help but be startled by the chair on my fifth floor balcony, I’m only mentioning the storey because everything fifth has such a nice 5th Avenue sound, anyway, I was really puzzled by the chair’s colour, you see, I’m pretty sure that chair was red when I bought it last year, bright red, a vivid and joyful colour, contrasting the olive trees’ matte green, not of this strange non-colour that makes it look like it had been done with some leftover paint from the time when Russia’s economy was still a planned one, when colour pigments were still considered a despicable bourgeois extravaganza, but since red is so damn socialist a colour, they had to try anyway, and that colour on my chair is all they could achieve, poor bastards, but I seem to digress, anyway, it’s not Russia to be blamed here, communist Russia at that, one has to be reasonable, it’s winter, and more precisely so, it’s January, the month known for its days without daylight, January, the most rotten month of them all. I hate January. But as I am writing this, the candle does seem to fulfill its purpose, it’s setting me in a better mood already. I wonder if tuberoses were ever an issue in communist Russia, survival-wise, I mean.

A hundred tulips, please.

You can’t have enough tulips, believe you me, you simply can’t. Even when your favourite vase refuses to take them all, just put the rest in some other vase, in some other room. My favourite vase, for instance, looks best with about 24 tulips. The only alternative to tulips, by the way, are peonies. Once, I stuffed that vase with so many peonies, I almost went bankrupt, peonies in Switzerland are absurdly expensive, in Zurich at that, the Swiss town considered quite expensive even by the Swiss themselves, admittedly, by Swiss from places less posh than Zurich, let’s say, Uri or Wallis, you know, the cantons with more cows than people, anyway, it was the best bouquet ever, I had added more and more peonies, every time I left the house, I came back with more peonies, they were sold in packs of three for 19,90 Swiss francs, just until the vase would burst, leaving almost no place for water, anyway, bankrupt or not, more is definitely more, as far as flowers are concerned, and then you just have to wait for the best, the moment when they slowly fade away, their withered allure is so very Marguerite Gautier, coughing her beautiful spirit into some lace lined damask before she disappears, leaving nothing behind but blood stains on her handkerchief.

The church of a thousand styles.

It’s a mess, a complete architectural mess, an eclectic monstrosity, Potsdam’s Church of Peace evokes everything at the same time, it features the Italian Renaissance, as well as Roman columns, Greek temples, Russian icons, Venetian mosaics, a miniature baroque mausoleum, a Tuscan campanile, Romanesque ornaments, a Tyrolean chapel, and a particular Tyrolean chapel at that, the one that recreates a chapel from Calvary outside Jerusalem, a replica’s replica, so to speak, there are sculptures of all kind of kings, namely Solomon, David and Charlemagne, and there’s Moses, Aaron and Hur, too, the only thing it doesn’t feature is anything remotely contemporary, the Prussian architects of the mid 1800s who were involved in erecting this absurd ensemble must have had no clue of what they were doing when planning a place for all those sarcophagi of the Prussian kings and emperors and their spouses, but at least the result is so grotesque, it’s definitely worth a visit, by the way, there’s a daughter of Queen Victoria buried here, too, called Victoria as well, married to Friedrich III, and although Germany and Great-Britain are one big family, at least as their Royal families are concerned, she wasn’t very influential, otherwise this compound would feature some stunning oriental references, too, her mother was Empress of India, wasn’t she?

Let‘s drink and be merry.

Rest and have lots of fluids, they say. Well, I had lots of’em. Fluids galore. I am soaked. Up to today, day three of my flu, I have had so many lemon flavoured doses of effervescent vitamin C from my Lalique tumblers, even Linus Pauling would have disapproved. Luckily, I had also just stocked up on tea, Mangalam, my very favourite plantation in Assam. I am about to empty those provisions in record time, tea gets cold so very quickly in a cup, especially when you fall asleep just after pouring it, you have to pour it all away, litres of the finest tea down the sewer, it’s a shame, it’s of no use to brew an entire pot, really, but when you don’t, rest assured, you will regret that, too, as you won’t fall asleep then, suddenly you’re wide awake and thirsty, and you’ll want more tea with episode 5 of Downton Abbey or whatever series your brain is trying to follow, you’ll need a fresh cup, too, maybe even a fresh pot, you’re already going through all your china as it is, out goes Royal Copenhagen, in comes Meissen, anyway, you get up again from your sickbed, you schlepp your aching bones into the kitchen to brew some more tea, this Mangalam plantation must really be a vast territory, and then empty an entire pot in 7 minutes 46 seconds. Those viruses are drunkards!

The Prince of Kent.

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There was this brooch, worn by Princess Michael of Kent, showing, well, something all too obviously perceivable as an object of racism, the world was outraged, I, however, grinned, maliciously, not being totally smitten by the woman Harry chose to marry like the rest of the world, for different reasons like Her Royal Highness though, I just would like to have somebody of royal blood marry into any of the royal families of Europe, just for a change, at least serene, the next generation of kings and queens are all married to girls and boys from the middle class, lower or upper, who cares, definitely all next door, not next palace, all these Kates and Daniels and Mette-Marits may all be nice and sweet and loveable, but if I were a subject to some family chosen by the grace of God, to a family allegedly superior to me, I‘d prefer them to take their task seriously and marry appropriately within Europe’s courts (even Princess Caroline managed to in her third attempt, and although she was no pure breed either, her mother was at least the finest Hollywood royalty), or resign and de-HRH themselves, as I don‘t feel in any way inferior to any of their current in-laws. So, in order to quote Princess Michael of Kent, still grinning maliciously, I decorated the Christmas tree with a man I made in school in Luxembourg at the age of eight, just for a politically ever so incorrect laugh.

The royal pleasures of summer.

I’ve had enough of it. One more morning to greet me with a grey sky, and I’ll shoot someone, but the joke would be on me, there aren’t any people in the streets, they’re all at home, overcuddling their dogs, as a compensation mechanism, some kind of seasonal displacement activity, overdosing on cookies won’t help any longer, you started that in October, anyway, I can’t stand it any longer, it’s so depressing. I’ve tried to walk the splendid gardens of Charlottenburg Palace to put me in a better mood, one of the royal Prussian residences in my direct neighbourhood, but it didn’t help much, turns out, all that splendour, all that rococo, all that abundance, all that gold and turquoise, all these shades of green, all that chinoiserie, all of it does need some light to shine, too, turns out, it’s just “Bonjour, tristesse” in winter. But I shall be patient, I’ll wait, I’ll endure this rotten season of greyish dullness, I’ll just need some more egg noggs to nogg me out till summer’s back.

Have yourself a vapid little Christmas.

They’re everywhere, the KaDeWe in Berlin is filled with these little Santa Claus martians, some kind of old school futuristic kitsch, post-midcentury monsters making it to the homes of metrosexual hipsters, giving me the creeps in any of their various colourings, I want to get away, make it to the fifth floor, to get my favourite cake from Lenôtre, but I’m mesmerized, their shiny empty faces seem to captivate us, we’re spellbound by some vapid features, purposeless design, free of any expression, faces void of character and emotion, insignificance galore, like the people from these TV shows in “Fahrenheit 451”, pointless triviality starting at €39,90, so that everybody can have one, but why would anyone want one? Why? And why do I want one? Why?

Hamburg coffee splendour.

One day in Hamburg, I couldn’t wait for lunchbreak, couldn’t wait to leave my desk at DDB Hamburg, that is Doyle Dane Bernbach, the agency famous for their work for Volkswagen’s beetle in the 1960s, Lemon, they shouted, Think Small, they advised, and by this they made it to eternity, advertising as it should be, whereas I, well, I hope it wasn’t too bad what I did on this day in 2012, anyway, I digress, I couldn’t wait to leave my desk, a desk with a fabulous view on Hamburg’s Speicherstadt and the Elbphilharmonie that was still being constructed, splendid architecture by Herzog & de Meuron consuming 866 million euros, but I digress again, anyway, I couldn’t wait to get the cup I had fallen in love with the other day, after hours of course, leaving me to wait for it a most inappropriately long amount of time, like Prince Bolkonsky had to wait for Natasha, a day or a year, where’s the difference, my Meissen coffee cup was even more alluring than Tolstoy’s Natasha, it had a green dragon on it, green being a favourite colour of mine, spitting little orange flames, embodying riches, chinoiserie at its best, as ornate as a cup could ever be, and most importantly, it was on sale at John Montag on Ballindamm, a store that had to shut down some time later after it had burned down, anyway, being on sale meant that it was still way too expensive but it made me think I was about to get a bargain, and so I did, in this lunchbreak in 2012, my concentration at work was way better in the afternoon, I can assure you, there’s nothing better than saving money during luchbreak.

Swiss and red.

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I have always had a thing for anything red and everything Swiss. It started with my best friend’s passport when I was eight or so, his was a real one, it was red and Swiss, mine was nothing but a greenish leaflet and German. So second grade was when the obsession started. Many years later, out of school and university, I ordered this lowboard at the Hamburg USM flagship store. Red and Swiss at the same time. I still had a German passport, but the at least the new EU ones are kind of red now, crimson or whatever you call it, oxblood or so, I couldn’t say, I’m the HKS 13 kind of guy, Coke can red, anyway, that sideboard was red, they call it ruby red by the way, and Swiss and now I was finally happy. Happy until I had to travel to New York, an incident that made me put my (black) Mandarina Duck suitcase on my beloved lowboard as I thought it would be easier to pack at 50 cm above sea level, which it actually was, perfect packing height, but hell, what a big mistake anyway, huge, that suitcase left marks, scars even, scratch marks all over the surface, what had once been shiny and new looked matte and rotten now, I couldn’t take it in, I had the scratching effect of my suitcase tested on my skin, to hell with Mandarina Duck, but no, no scratch marks there, not even on my face, my skin stayed completely unmarked, it didn’t even turn red, so no to hell with Mandarina Duck, I thought, but to hell with USM Haller! Swiss quality? What a joke. As long as you don’t touch it maybe. Which I then tried not to. I moved the lowboard to Zurich and when I left Zurich, I gave it away, for a buck and a half, it’s like selling diamonds when you have to, worst deal ever, leaves you with a tip, but apart from the fact that it weighs a ton and that you have to have somebody over to adjust its feet when you dare to move it, I had grown tired of its fake quality appeal. That plane by the way, Swiss and red, fell off a carton while packing, it broke its wing, well, what can I say, I won’t give up, but until I find anything better, I’ll stick to Frigor chocolate. It’s Swiss and red, too.

Late summer, indoors.

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We’ve enjoyed two days of late summer, this early autumn in Berlin. Everybody was frolicking through town, through parks and streets, trying to forget about those grey, rainy days ahead of us, soaking up the sunshine before its deficiency sets in and makes us miserable and eat tons of cookies, double chocolate chipped, I am pretty sure without all this extra chocolate intake during the holidays, peaking on Christmas Eve, we’d all be among the suicides in the morgues, no way we could survive this period of leafless trees, grey skies and endless colds without it, anyway, as much as I wanted to join my compassionates, I for one stayed at home, soaking up the impact these last sunny days had on my interior decoration, everything looked so splendid, the sun was bringing out everything at its very best, I just had to. And now I have to go out, I do need some fresh air.

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