Creative Arborism 101

The first in the series. A classic that defined the latter works.

Further in the series, we see an interesting juxtaposition of asymmetrical tree and signage creating balance in imbalance.

A slightly awkward piece; the ‘crossroads’ imagery seems naively overwrought here.

Quite possibly the jewel of the collection. This, the finest specimen of all the trees used in the collection, has been knowingly coupled with sublime signage and a wry parallelism with the real tree. Magnificent.

It’s that festive time of year again. When families, friends and flatmates come together across the continent, unite in their living rooms, gaze at their joyfully selected Christmas tree, hold hands and say to each other, lovingly:
“Well, that was a pretty good Christmas. Time to chuck this on the streets then.”
Since my return from the UK, the changing of the seasons seems to have been marked by little more than rubbish. The first day after New Year’s, the pavements were utterly bristling with a fetid rash of detritus: bits of fireworks, burnt-put sparklers, döner wrappers and so very much broken glass. Slightly unexpectedly considering that this city is usually kept relatively clean and litter-free in comparison to the trashfest that is London, this layer of crud was never really cleared away by anyone, so it just lay on the streets for days, tangling together slowly like washed-up seaweed on a shallow beach. 

But a few days later, after the bulk of the clobber had settled neatly into the gutters and drains, a new wave of special rubbish arrived to truly herald the new year and a fresh start. Suddenly, hundreds of small fir trees started appearing on the pavements. Some were left to grow soggy and lose their needles with time. Some were immediately seen as a canvas and haphazardly spraypainted. Some were set on fire. One that had been set on fire was then spotted by a large dog who saw it as a brilliant new toy, and that dog nearly reaped me off the pavement with his enormous blackened club jutting a metre out from his jaws each way.

Then, a few days after that, someone with an imaginative mind and, presumably, a ladder, decided to stick one of these abandoned Christmas trees into the top of a tall signpost. Inspiration struck the city. One by one, signposts were being adorned with leftover Christmas trees, the trees staying remarkably full of life despite being propped up in a long thin pipe with no access to water. 

And seriously now, something funny is happening with this changing of the seasons. Why are all these trees *still* there? Why does the lady living opposite my office kitchen window still have her festive candelabra on her windowsill? Why – seriously, why – does the pizza place down the road still have one of those plastic trees with an upturned umbrella at the base to catch the polystyrene ‘snow’ that sprays gently from the top? (And why would anyone ever choose to have one of those in their establishment at anytime ever?).

Two days ago, at the farmer’s market, I picked a nice-looking apple from the basket and the sweet bloke behind the stall said ‘Take it! Enjoy! Happy new year!’ People are still, frequently, wishing me a happy new year, even though it’s long since new and definitely seems to be doing its level best to avoid that whole ‘happy’ thing. There are still Dominocubes on sale in Kaisers – not that I’m complaining about that particular detail; Dominocubes are little blocks of soft spiced gingerbread topped with a layer of marzipan and another layer of fruity jelly and covered in chocolate, so yes, do keep those coming. But for some reason I cannot identify, this new year is having a very difficult time indeed letting go of the recent festivities.

And yet. In the supermarket, drifting brainlessly through the aisles, something purple and elongated caught my eye. A Milka bunny. I had stumbled into the Easter aisle. Chocolate eggs, little sweetie rabbits, Kinder chocolate chicks…So what is going on?! What are we doing here, guys, Christmas or Easter? Or am I jumping the gun here and those Easter treats were actually just the leftovers from last Easter, and soon we’ll start seeing Lindt rabbits and bunches of daffodils wedged into signposts as people finally decide it’s time to start getting rid  of the Easter stuff from 9 months ago?

Another pertinent question: who is going to clear up all those trees in posts in the end? Is some schmoe from the government going to go round with a really, really long version of one of those grabby-sticks and yank the trees out of the poles one-by-one? Or are they just going to stay there forever now, a legacy from a Christmas so fundamentally special that we shall never forget it.

Either way, we don’t need trees in posts to remind us that we’ve entered the cruellest part of winter; all you need to realise that is to step outside, where the biting cold has finally arrived and will make your nose feel like numb, dribbling putty in 30 seconds. This new year is about to get hardcore. Bring it on.

Adventures in the wilderness

If you asked me to take you to a place in Germany that is the opposite of Berlin in every single way (except for temperature), I would immediately take you to the Ostsee. If you asked me to take you somewhere that was the definition of Freud’s ‘uncanny’ (thank you, useless literary theory paper) I would take you to the Ostsee without hesitating. If you asked me to show you what Henley town centre would look like with a huge terrifying voodoo swamp replacing the river – well, you’d probably stop asking me to take you places because the lack of variety I offer is so disappointing. 

The Ostsee (and Riebnitz, the town I was staying in) is a very strange and lovely place. While I was there it seemed to be stuck in the ‘slowing down time’ mode of Prince of Persia, because everything was half-soaked in a translucent grey mist and the few living things in the area just drifted, like flecks of soot suspended in lamp-oil. 

Things persist in being stubbornly picturesque no matter where you go, which is probably why my internet has suddenly decided to once again forbid me from uploading any images. Thanks again, O2.

Well, it’s not exciting, but it’s totally unlike anything I have ever seen before; it was so quiet there were bubbles on the surface of the water that you could tell had been there for days, and at one point there was a grebe casually diving in and out of the water, creating a strange optical illusion as the sky and the sea were indistinguishable, both being an identical shade of grey. I’m also terribly upset thatI can’t put any more images into this post because one thing I absolutely loved in Ribnitz was the amber museum; I promise, fossilised resin really is worth a museum. They gave me a little sachet of amber chunks when I bought my ticket (I think partly out of gratitude for being the only visitor of the whole day) and I spent forever wandering around all the brilliant displays, my favourite being the array of insects stuck in amber and featuring as the main attraction the world’s only example of a REAL GECKO encased in amber that is millions of years old. Imagine seeing a laminated mammoth. That’s basically the same thing. It’s astonishing. 

I returned on Sunday night – shockingly, things are in no way different whatsoever back in the big city. My flatmates seem to be having the most incredible time, energised by ‘Herbstputz’ (like spring-cleaning, but in autumn), as every time I return to my apartment they are having an awesome cooking-fest or dancing around wearing sunglasses pretending that it’s sunny. The children are still wild, and made wilder by the fact that they are being allowed less and less time to go outside and joyfully hurt themselves and each other before they come to my lessons. Terror alerts in the city are causing the trains to be erratic, tourist attractions to be put into lockdown mode (sorry mum, but the Reichstag will have to wait till next time) and everyone from England to wryly comment that if this were Britain we’d already be on our fourth terror alert of the week. The Christmas lights are on, the Weihnachtsmaerkte are warming up the Gluehwein, the new bakery across the road opened with a razzmatazz brass band and I can’t, can’t, can’t wait to come home.