Fashion and me

I gave Litizia a cash deposit a few weeks ago before she went to Rome for Easter. She is a fashion photographer who divides her time between the Eternal City, Milan and Berlin.

I have a fickle fascination with interior design. I am drawn to aesthetics and the stories they tell. Her studio is the perfect size with Caravaggio and Don McCullers books nestling beside drift wood, pot plants, and a black vinyl record full of stars.

Virgin leaves are singing in the courtyard as the first wasp of the year tries to get in. She has Renaissance angels guarding the kitchen door. Her sofa is ruby rouge like a kiss.

I water her plants every day as I promised. Sometimes I wonder how I would decorate my own studio. Would I measure up on aesthetic grounds? As it’s time for me to go now.

I can hear the artist rattling her key.

Blackbirds in Berlin

Locked indoors and listening to the sweet cry of blackbirds, the church bell strikes noon. I love the songs of spring.

Ambulances and police vans are wailing in the distance amidst the clatter of twenty-first century life. Alien, industrious vehicles warding off death and destruction hour by hour.

Indoors I have two suitcases and a blank page for company. I refresh the screen to avoid working. I am subletting from a Roman fashion photographer. The sun beats behind my curtains as they fly from tree to tree.

Ferrante fever

Writing from Berlin, I listen to a pianist play a festive melody as the snow settles on Arndtstraße. He plays every day while I type into a mute machine. The Bergmannstrasse area reminds me of Upper Street in Islington with its boutique florist shops. It’s a Christmas card looking for a frame. My book shelves are empty, but I have the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante to complete before the year closes.

There are entire libraries separating me and her prose.

Friedrichshain

Every night I see them howling like wolves underneath the railway bridge, forming cross-legged circles and wailing drunken invectives into the Spree. Their brutish chants always put me on edge after dark. My body trembles with fear as I walk past them – the unfamiliarity of foreign darkness.

It’s now almost eight o’clock, and I’ve not eaten anything since noon. I rarely have proper meals unless I have company. I usually forget what I’ve eaten within hours of consuming it. Is that just me? The Balkanisation of fast food has ensured that kebab shops are nearly everywhere. I try to avoid them for undefined health reasons.

I’m on tour this autumn as my constellations live on the continent. With technology as my oracle, I feel compelled to move to stay relevant. To remain interesting. When I walk around I am reminded of how malleable my feelings are and how affected they are by my environment.

I’m currently staying in Friedrichshain, which is like Manchester in the early 1980s – a vast concrete resistance against nature. It’s a former Soviet ideological frontier with an aesthetic brutality to match.

As I frequent local bars and cafes, you notice a riotous absence of decorum in places. From gracing red velvet bars filled with smoke to watching vagrants open tins on the street – the social mores are looser, traffic faster and beers cheaper.

Seeing cigarette packets in grocery stores again is like a cinematic throwback. It forces you to reset your mind to a different period altogether, but it was only a few years ago that the British government banned tobacco advertising in shops.

It then dawned on me that Britain isn’t so liberal after all. You get cleared out of pubs at 11 pm with bells and brooms. Public drinking is tolerated but frowned upon, and in some cities, it’s prohibited by law. If you drink outside of licensed areas, then you are usually condemned to the margins of society.

With the spectre of Brexit looming, I welcome the licentiousness of Berlin and the ugliness of its Soviet zone. For all the grunting noises under the bridge, it feels strangely safer here too. Less on edge than London. For good or bad, I always end up living in a booming dystopia.

Zigzag to Berlin

On departing Dalston Junction last Saturday, I mismanaged my packing so badly I alighted the Eurostar on the station master’s whistle. My violent, sweating omnishambles of a departure saw my finest cottons stuffed into Sainsbury’s bags and an elderly Australian couple trampled upon at the platform.

Any romantic notion I had of travelling by rail evaporated at passport control. I could barely breathe for stress and fatigue. Everything had gone smoothly until that point – freelance tasks, new clothes, storage, doctor appointments, dentist bills, direct debits, and pub-hosted goodbyes.

My packing mismanagement aside, I loved my continental train journey and miles of leg room. Going on a first-class time machine through spicy red forests, you feel part of something bigger. No longer marooned by shoals of mackerel, herring and cod. Moving over land is the best way to travel if you have the time to spare.

Before I arrived at St Pancras, I had been on standby in an AirBnB flat with bourgeois professionals I will never see again. I have no patience for fake relationships nowadays. London is like Zurich with arts and entertainment; terminally transactional with its rising rents and contactless pubs.

With Dalston now a distant din, I will keep moving forward until I am forced to come back for employment. Now deep into the orange fall, the spectre of Soviet socialism is all around me. I zigzag past the Berlin Wall every day and have frequently got lost since my arrival by train.

I have no idea how I managed to get this far.