Practising Acceptance (Alternative title: A considerable majority of Berlin has seen my bum)

Don't eat the bay leaf, it''s...a garnish. I KNOW, ALRIGHT, I'M SORRY.

Don’t eat the bay leaf, it’s…it’s…a garnish. I KNOW, ALRIGHT, I’M SORRY.

Allow me to begin this post with a small story of something that happened to me today on my way back from the garden. I was cycling home, when I saw in the doorway to one of the apartment blocks a rather nice wicker trunk with a big sign saying ‘zu verschenken’ (i.e. it’s yours for free if you want it, mug). I stopped to look at it and think about whether or not I fancied taking it, but somehow my bike then started to lean at a rakish angle and before I knew it we both collapsed to the ground with a chaotic smash. Once I had managed to get back up and scrape my hair out of my eyes, I saw that all the stuff in my bike basket (a cardi, a tupperware full of seed packets, and some gardening gloves with birds on them) had spilled out in front of the ‘zu verschenken’ sign and some random dude had stopped to casually browse through my belongings to see if there was anything decent being given away. ‘Actually those are my things‘ I said, matter-of-factly, and then I piled them back into my basket, propped the wicker trunk on top of my bike and began wheeling myself away (with a slight limp).

First of all, yes, I am aware that this is maybe the twelfth falling-off-my-bike story there has been just this season. And no, I don’t know why I fall off so much, though I get asked why so often that it’s not like I don’t sometimes lie awake at night wondering what is wrong with me. I think it is a combination of the fact that I have a very poor sense of balance (see: me falling off the treadmill, me spilling 70% of all hot drinks I ever have to carry more than a metre and a half, me accidentally walking head-on into JOANNA LUMLEY) and that my bike is so heavy that if it ever starts to lean sideways I am unable to hold it up and so it drags me down with it like a squirrel on a falling tree. BUT that’s not the point of this post and also I don’t care what you think about the fact that I fall off my bike a lot what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger leave me alone.

The point is that after that thing happened earlier (i.e. an idiotic collapse which led to me accidentally donating my possessions to a needy public) I didn’t feel embarrassed, or stupid, or ashamed – I just chuckled and wandered away. These things just don’t bother me at all any more. Last week I arrived at the gym to find that my water bottle ha leaked in my bag, so I had to do my workout in soaking wet clothes smelling disconcertingly strongly of orange squash. Then – unsurprisingly – I fell off the treadmill. And look at me now, telling thousands of automatic spammy blog-sweeper bots and my two readers all about it. And don’t even get me started on the number of times I have made the 20-minute walk to the S-Bahn station from my house only to discover near the station that my skirt has been tucked into the waistband of my tights the entire time. Bitch, please. You think that bothers me?

The wonderful thing about Berlin is that you can do or be anything, and people just accept you just the way you are. You can have your hair in any kind of bouffant or wild disarray, you can wear vinyl leggings or Thai fishermans’ trousers (or both at the same time), you can ride your scooter onto the S-Bahn and take your dog to the library and no-one minds one bit. Everyone is content to just let everyone else…just be. It’s hard to express quite how liberating that is. The sense of freedom in knowing that you can do whatever feels comfortable, and that there is genuinely no social consequence in not wearing makeup or not being as skinny as Slenderman or being the last human being on earth to refuse to wear leggings. The day I am caught wearing leggings is the day all reality will unravel into a wet nothing.

My friend mentioned this morning that recently he had been in a shop and, when coming to the till, he had greeted the sales girl and she had gone ‘Yeah just one sec, let me just do this first,’ and then proceeded to spend several minutes farting about on her laptop. And I laughed, and then I thought YES, this is the attitude I love, where people don’t feel the need to smile and kiss your knees just because you’re a customer. There is no heirarchy: you are there and they are there, and an interaction may take place, but they don’t need to smarm at you and you don’t need to patronise them. If you fall over and make an arse of yourself in the street, there’s no sense of shame, because everyone around you just carries on, knowing full well that they’ve done embarrassing goofs in public too. If you put your foot in your mouth and say something deeply unadvised (another one of my specialities), the other person in the conversation will graciously laugh and give you a chance to explain what you meant, because you are both human beings on the same and you have to forgive each other constantly for the fact that you are both constantly at war with the giant, chaotic, disoriented guff-muffin inside you. I guess it all stems from how goddam communiss we all are here. Anyway, in celebration of it all, here’s a soup.

Red Pepper, Aubergine and Bayleaf Bisque

I don’t know what a bisque is and I suspect this isn’t one, but ‘bisque’ is one of my all-time favourite hilarious words. It’s not pretty to look at, but totally super-great once it’s past the lips.

Feeds 4 for lunch, 3 for dinner, or you could skip the blender, throw in some chicken/chickpeas and call it a stew.

1 aubergine

2 red peppers

2 large onions

3 cloves garlic

1 small carrot

3 large fresh tomatoes

2 sticks celery or a chunk of celeriac as big as a deck o’ cards

2 bayleaves

1.5 tsp cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

500ml chicken/veg stock

+water and salt and pepper, adjust to suit desired soup thickness and taste

1. Cube the aubergine and peppers, and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and put under a hot grill/in a hot oven for 20 mins until the edges are starting to blacken.

2. Meanwhile, chop up the onions and garlic and sweat them (i.e. not hot enough that brown bits form on the pan base) in a splash of oil over a medium heat. Dice the carrots, celery and tomatoes and add them to the pan, and cook, stirring regularly, until the veg in the oven are done.

3. Add the fluids to the pan with the roasted veg and all the spices, then simmer on a low heat for 20 mins.

4. Remove the bay leaves, then puree with a stick blender or food processor. Add a splash of milk for roundness and/or a splash of balsamic vinegar for a tang at this point. Stir and serve.

Rose T