31 August 2017

eM's Massive Travel Diary: Part One, Berlin, Germany

Since I was away for a whole MONTH, something you may have seen on the today in photo posts, I sent out four newsletters during my trip. Putting them up here in case you missed them, but you can subscribe here if you'd like up-to-date musings. 




Darlings, I am writing to you from the sunny back room of a flat in West Berlin. Across the window, I can see a park which usually has children in it, but since the monsoon seems to have followed me to Europe, it is a grey, wet day, which I sort of like, because it feels so much more European. Sunny days are for beach holidays, in Germany, we turn up the collars of our coats and eat warm, bracing things. That's just the way it is.

Yes, my European holiday has begun! It really began late on Sunday night, when--having packed up Elvira The Backpack--I stood in line for an awfully long time waiting to get on a plane. Late night flights are the worst, they're always so crowded. When I'm rich, I'm only going to fly in the middle of the day. And also business class, since I'll be rich anyway. The good news is that they've done away with filling up those ridiculous little immigration cards which always caused a bottleneck right before you went to security check. Now I guess everyone has a new fangled passport, because they just swipe them on a little machine and send you on your way. It also means the immigration officer doesn't know I'm a writer, which is GREAT, because otherwise EVERY.SINGLE.TIME there would be this whole "what do you write? who do you write for?" and while I'm as happy to talk about myself as the next person, entertaining a bored immigrations officer is not my idea of fun. (They knew I was a writer because you had to fill in "occupation" in those forms.)

However, I can't get myself to go to sleep on flights. No matter how hard I tried, changing positions, putting on an eye mask, just lying there and closing my eyes, it wasn't happening. As a result, I just stayed awake. There were some movies to watch, I saw three back-to-back, read my book, ate the snack, considered my existence as the whole plane slumbered gently.
***
This week in plane movies: I watched Wilson, where Woody Harrelson plays this weird guy who has no concept of personal space etc, who looks up his ex-wife who is a waitress and then they hook up and he's all like, "I wonder what would happen if you had kept the baby" and she's like, "Oh, I did, and I gave it up for adoption" and then they trace their daughter who is now sixteen and they hang out, and you're like okay, sweet, but then the movie suddenly turns into a completely different one because Wilson gets arrested for kidnapping and putting a child in danger (the daughter has lied to her parents to hang out with them), and there are a lot of prison scenes and then redemption on the other side. Weird movie. (46% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I had to watch all these films WITHOUT checking the reviews first, which made me feel a little crippled.)

I'm surprised the next film I watched--The Boss Baby-- had a higher rating than Wilson (but only just at 52%)--because it was pretty schlocky. There's a kid who is the apple of his parents eyes, the centre of his heart and they have a second kid, and suddenly kid one is treated to the kind of isolation previously only experienced by overweight ageing labradors in a house with a new baby. But it turns out this isn't just any baby, it's a special management one, climbing the ranks to Super Boss Baby, and the two join forces and blah di blah, sibling rivalry turns into love. And I KNOW, it's an animated movie, but I love animated movies, they're usually not so pounding you over the head with the point. And this one was by the creators of Shrek so I was surprised.

Finally I saw Table 19,  where a rag tag group of misfits is seated at the worst table at a wedding and they all become friends and because I love the rag tag genre as a whole, I quite liked this one. (Alas, the one I liked the most got the WORST rating: 23% so my mind is a little shaken right now. Should I... NOT be reading reviews?)
***

Just went out and ate some soup. There's a place quite close to where we stay in Berlin which has a rotating list of daily special soups. They even have a punch card so your eleventh soup is free. I don't think we can eat ELEVEN, but K's dad only has three to go on his card, so we've just taken that. Today's lunch: potato and carrot stew with beef. Yum.
***
K's trying to get me to talk to people more. I can't, I'm too embarrassed of my less than schoolgirl German, I know my face is screwing up in odd ways to get the "sh" noises right, and I could switch to English (and I do!) but I'd like to be that person who converses freely with the locals everywhere she goes. So then I feel bad even as I'm speaking in English, and basically, it's just way easier for me to not say anything at all.
***
A lovely wine bar yesterday and meeting a friend I haven't seen in five years. The last time we met, I lived in Bombay and he lived in Singapore, but since then our paths diverged wildly. Berlin suits you, I told him, and it does! He looks happy and fulfilled. On another recommendation, we went to a wine bar in a rapidly gentrifying yummy mummy area. The wine bar was still delightfully dim and smoky and overcrowded, so no Invasion Of The Prams yet, thank goodness. What I liked is that you could get a glass for 4.50 euros or a whole bottle (the waitress gave us a cheap one for 15 euros, but prices went up to 450 on the chalkboard menu behind us), but if you couldn't finish your bottle, you could return it and pay for what you'd drank. Plus free antipasti just to get into the mood.
***
And now in book-related news, there's FINALLY a Kindle edition, for those of you who live abroad and/or prefer ebooks and an interview I did with the Hindustan Times is getting quite a lot of interest!

This week in non-book-related things I wrote: For my friend Nayantara's journal (attached to her amazing label Taramay's website) a list of my favourite female detectives in fiction. ** My Tsundoku books column in Hindu Blink is out again with three books I think you should be reading. ** And rebooting Aunty Feminist to be more "listcle-y" here is a myth-busting column on the single modern Indian woman. **

This week in links which might be kinda old since I haven't spent much (any) time browsing the internet:  I met a Freegan once. It was an interesting evening. ** Why "how to be gorgeous like a French girl" means nothing. ** Margaret Atwood talks to Junot Diaz. Yes please to this interview. ** Finally Shrayana takes all those conversations we've had and turns them into this compelling, cutting article on dating the posh gentry. ** She's baa-aaack. The Urban Poor is now a book. **

Have a great week!
xx
m

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