Friday, July 4, 2014

Why blog? Berlin, the war and the new city

We no longer do the big 4th party which is a shame. The house suffers. As an aid to house work, nothing works like inviting friends and neighbors round in broad daylight. So instead I can celebrate the Fourth by sitting, doing a blog. But first fight the feeling of  how  self important and  time-wasting  my whole blog thing is, rather like my attitude to housework, because  everyone and their angry cat is dropping smart jokes and funny pictures all over the Internet. I should stick to my generation, (Generation Why aren't  you married?) and celebrate home and all the nice old wooden furniture we have, ( mostly from the  swap  meet,) which gleams so gratefully, if ever I polish it.Which brings us to Berlin.

We spent two days in Berlin a week or so ago and I was riveted, checking every building, every facade. For I am also the "We will fight on the beaches, we will fight in the air..." generation, and the moonscape of Berlin, 1945. And the names: the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Berlin Wall.

Everywhere I rejoiced on seeing any old walls, windows, little extras on balconies and corners, like builders used to do. Hoping inside the old furniture had survived, the plates with flowers on them, the sweet little creamers you get in the thrift stores, with garlands and gilt edges, "Made in Germany."

Berlin is now Seattle, West Coast. Half the city on bikes, enjoying the June sunlight, leaving municipal flower borders to weeds and country flowers, a little sign telling you why, a reminder the Green Party is biggest in Germany. And outside our hotel window a blackbird singing in a tree, something I haven't heard since England.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mandela and pineapples

I've just been inspired by a wonderful person, (Hi Cathy!)to pick up my IPad after six months of silence and blog! As they used to say in the classic BBC Goon Show: "Waits for applause... Not a sausage!"
Never mind. I have missed too many chances to entertain, instruct and show off: example, take the death of Mandela.
I was living in London when Mandela was in prison. Of course, you could have lived in London, married, had kids and moved to the country and he would still have been in prison. Back then, in the sixties, London was full of white liberals, many of them Jewish, exiling themselves from apartheid South Africa. (A better class of  resident than the current Russian oligarchs and Arab millionaires.)
Back then, Mandela was the political touchstone by which we were all measured. Were you for the boycott of all things South African or not? I can't remember if we students  had banned diamond engagement rings but we refused to eat pineapples. (It would have been unbearable during the war, to spurn the Christmas food parcels from our South African  relatives, with their cans  of golden pineapple chunks.)
The South African boycott as a policy, is still debated today: did it help destroy apartheid? Do boycotts work? If we shun vodka now, will it hurt the Russian economy? Or just South Beach? Back then, it was clear cut as a fairy tale: a very good man was in prison and by not eating pineapples we could help get him out.