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.
Let me give you a compte rendu of life in general, this winter in Berlin. Some days were foggy. Some were overcast. Some were rainy. Or snowy. Mostly the kind of snow that melts as soon as it touches ground. Some were just frozen stiff. Entire weeks presented themselves without any sunlight, leaving us with more than fifty shades of grey to enjoy on a daily basis, none of which worth writing home about, much less a novel, not even such a bad one. I miss summer so badly, I bought tulips today. Pink. Three packs. One wouldn’t do it. The purchase alone brightened my day a little. And so, coming home, I wanted to take a picture of these thirty pink tulips as soon as I had put them in a vase, and rumble on about the uplifting qualities of tulips in general and pink ones in particular, and why I loved that film with Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz so much, but as I was schlepping them home, them and some other stuff heavy enough to justify talking of schlepping here, the little sun we had was setting, I arrived in total darkness, and as there is absolutely no use of taking pictures of flowers in a candlelit room, this kind of light doesn’t do them justice at all, I leave you with another compte rendu: the one of my way through town.
I wonder if there is a reason or a deeper sense to all this missing light in winter, to the cold outside, to all these horrid crowds running you over on their search for Christmas presents or the nearest Starbucks. There’s only one I can come up with: We are to stay at home and read Balzac. And when we have cover-to-covered his Human Comedy, we are to continue and praise Hemingway’s short sentenced short stories, Waugh’s love for grotesque sceneries (best followed by Muriel Spark’s love for grotesque characters), Thomas Bernhard’s hilarious bitterness, Louis Begley’s distant observations, Stefan Zweig’s lost worlds and Rilke’s elegiacomania, Philip Roth’s cold-hearted dissections of anyone he ever came up with, Jane Austen’s ironic approach to mankind itself, W. Somerset Maugham’s lust for human frailties, Colette’s view on women and their lovers, Gabriele d’Annunzio’s view on decadence, every now and then we are to enjoy a poem by Emily Dickinson, like a sorbet between fish and meat, and, most importantly, we are to read the directions for Diptyque candles. Unless you care for soot, that is.
Winter is a tricky season. Outside it’s cold, inside it’s not. It’s a perfect dilemma. You’re never dressed appropiately if you don’t care to carry a suitcase with you at all times of the day which I don’t. I frightfully remember one evening, a frosty winter’s night in Frankfurt. I was visiting my oldest and best friend Miriam and I was taken out to dinner at a Greek restaurant, her neighbours, the consulate general of Australia and her husband joined us, and I had the best dorado of my entire life there, which actually means a lot as I was brought up by a fish enthusiast. I can’t recall what we had for starters but that was when I started to feel hot. Very hot. I was wearing a woolen turtle neck sweater with the thickest turtle neck possible. Yves Saint Laurent, ordered at Mr Porter at the time when Stefano Pilati was still in charge. I might have looked cool in it, but I didn’t feel cool. Just hot. And not in the good way. The wine wasn’t cooling me down either, although I was starting to be thankful that white wine is served cold. I was considering ordering ice cubes with it but Miriam wouldn’t have approved of that. Surely she wanted to come back to that place. The easiest thing would have been to just take it off, but I couldn’t as I was wearing a totally torn t-shirt underneath. Old as dirt. It was hopeless. At dessert I almost fainted, little drops of perspiration dropped from my nose which at least was in top shape, as I had used Moritz’s Clinique For Men Face Scrub in the shower. This was actually the place where this night ended – in the shower. Washing off the woolen fuzz of my fluffy forest greened throat.