#6Degrees of Separation September: Wildcard Pick

I missed last month’s Six Degrees of Separation meme, since I was away on holiday, but it is one of my favourites and a good way to ease myself back into blogging after quite a hiatus. Here’s how it works: hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best, each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six others to form a chain. No need to have an overarching theme, although some do, or connect the book to all of the titles on the list, just let your mind have a wander and see where it take you.

This month is Wildcard month, no set starting point, but Kate suggests we start with the last in the chain that we last completed or else with the last book we read. Well, the last chain I completed in July ended with the rather depressing Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter and I’ve had enough of illness and death, so I will opt for the second version.

The last book I read was Jennie by Paul Gallico, a children’s story about an eight-year-old boy, feeling rather lonely and unloved by his upper-class ‘colonial style’ parents, who suddenly turns into a cat. It was the only book I could read during the last few days with my beloved Zoe, and it is clearly written by someone who loved and completely understood cats. Full of adventures but also gentle moments, not at all preachy, simply a beautiful tribute to friendship and love.

Another book written by a cat connoisseur is Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, which shows that the very cerebral and earnest poet also had a humorous and tender side. Famously turned into a musical (and a rather horrid film). I love this edition illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

I don’t think T. S. Eliot’s book is necessarily aimed at children, but it relies heavily on wordplay and subverting expectations, which is certainly the MO for Dr Seuss and his famous (or should that be infamous) Cat in the Hat. I certainly could have done with a cat or other pet to blame (I was an only child) when there was mess in the house after one of my ‘pretend’ games.

I will stick to the cat theme and move to Japan, where of course cats are much loved and often feature in their literature, art, anime and manga. The classic book is Soseki Natsume’s I Am a Cat, which is most certainly NOT aimed at children, but a satire about a rapidly changing Japanese society during the Meiji and Taisho period (turn of the 19th to 20th century), seen from the no-nonsense point of view of a cat.

Another Japanese novel where the cat is a pretext for the examination of adult themes, in this case a relationship turned sour, is Tanizaki Junichiro’s A Cat, a Man and Two Women, which once again is all about loneliness, tenderness and love in the most unexpected places.

When it comes to love triangles, of course the French could teach the world a thing or two, even when one of the corners of the triangle is a cat. My go-to book in that respect is Colette’s La Chatte (The Female Cat), about a marriage founded on jealousy of a cat, and although it features some deliberate cruelty towards the cat, you know that Colette would never allow a beautiful Chartreux to die (she herself had a succession of them, who followed her around everywhere).

My final cat-themed link is to that most formidable, shape-shifting, ill-mannered, incorrigible and evil cat of them all, Behemoth, the Devil’s sidekick, from The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. Who can resist the immortal line, which always makes me burst into laughter, as the troublesome duo try to enter the literary club:

“You’re not Dostoevsky,” said the citizeness, who was getting muddled by Koroviev.
“Well, who knows, who knows,” he replied.
“Dostoevsky’s dead,” said the citizeness, but somehow not very confidently.
“I protest!” Behemoth exclaimed hotly. “Dostoevsky is immortal!”

I have a T-shirt with Behemoth looming above the city (see picture), which I love to bits.

So my cat-shaped travels have taken us to London and Glasgow, the United States, Japan, Paris and Moscow. Let me know where your Six Degrees take you!

All the Summer Reading Challenges

I’ve come to the conclusion that, despite three weeks of ‘holidays’, it’s been a difficult summer personally, and this has been reflected in my reading. I have failed in virtually all my reading challenges (not that I take the word ‘failure’ terribly seriously in this context). I’ve read more than #20BooksofSummer, but few of them were on my original list. I read a couple of books in July for Stu’s Spanish and Portuguese Literature Month, but never got around to reviewing them. I’ve also read quite a few #WomeninTranlation books in August (and generally – this is probably one of my favourite themes in reading) but I have no intention to provide carefully considered, deep reviews of any of them.

I just can’t. I don’t have the mental or physical capacity at the moment. It’s a shame, there will be a gap when I look back on my reading and wish I’d done more. In the meantime, here are some very brief and hopefully pithy remarks (I hesitate to call them reviews) about each of them. I have already shared my escapist reading with you, here are the more ‘serious’ reads.

July Reading

I read 12 books that month, of which three escapist crime novels and four for work purposes (two books in German and two translations from the Catalan). I skimmed through two very interesting but simply far too long ones (for my levels of concentration and busy-ness that month): The Shadowy Third about one of Elizabeth Bowen’s love affairs and the letters exchanged and Devil-Land about 17th century Britain. Which leaves only three books, two of which fit into the Spanish/Portuguese language reading challenge.

Maria Judite de Carvalho: Empty Wardrobes, transl. Margaret Jull Costa, Two Lines Press, 2021.

I interpret the title as the emptiness that many women feel when they realise that the people or the love that they held dear have let them down, that sentiments and trust were illusory, and that they have no one but themselves to rely on. It’s a sombre yet depressingly accurate view of heterosexual relationships, shared by three generations of women in the same family, although not necessarily from a position of solidarity. Written in 1966, in a very Catholic and patriarchal Portugal where women had few choices outside the domestic sphere, there is nevertheless much that is still recognisable today. It also reminds me of Enchi Fumiko’s work, particularly The Waiting Years, although that refers to even more demeaning conditions for women in Meiji Japan.

He would arrive home, give me a peck on the cheek, drink his usual glass of whisky, then tell me all about his day in great detail, and so I thought he really loved and needed me. In fact, I was merely a convenient body beside him, an ever-attentive audience always ready to express unconditional admiration when he told me of yet another professional triumph… he needed that applause at home as well, in order to feel he was lord of a little tailor-made world all his own.

For far more detailed and sensitive reading of this book, do read Jacqui’s blog.

Gabriela Cabezón Cámara: Slum Virgin, transl. Frances Riddle, Charco Press, 2017.

This one is the exact opposite of the quieter, more restrained style of Empty Wardrobes. It is a riot of events, characters, stories and style, with elements of tragedy, melodrama, comedy and farce all jostling for attention within its pages. Cleopatra is a trans prostitute in a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, but renounces her work once she has a revelation from the Virgin Mary. Quity is an ambitious journalist keen to cover the story, but ends up falling for Cleo instead. Told in short chapters alternating between the highly individualistic voices of these two characters, filled with colourful slang, replete with religious references and superstition, we encounter a seamy, corrupt but energetic world reminiscent of Jorge Amado’s The War of the Saints.

In the extract below, Cleo is receiving all sorts of gifts from people in the flooded slum who are hoping for miracle cures:

Then with a practicality that surprised me and continues to surprise me in a person who speaks with celestial beings, Cleo told us that God loved us, that through God we could love each other, and that we should have breakfast. It was time and it was freezing cold, and first things first. We could always pray later.

Shirley Jackson: The Sundial, Penguin Modern Classics (first published in 1958)

No one can portray the suffocating qualities of a family and a house better than Shirley Jackson, a real antithesis to the wholesome image of home and hearth projected in the United States in the 1950s. This novel portrays a very strange family, all living in a sinister home with surrealist traits (like being in an Escher drawing), an ‘end of the world’ prophecy which binds them and excludes everyone outside their property. But are the dangers truly in the outside world or within their ‘safe’ house and ‘in-group’? We know that Jackson was agoraphobic at various points in her life, but we also know that she considered the family home to be the most perilous and vicious place too. I don’t want to put you off by the rather serious subject matter and the magical realism style – it is also very sharp, witty and downright funny.

Shirley Jackson is one of my favourite authors, and occupies pride of place on my bedside table: go and read her, pronto, if you haven’t already done so, whether you start with this or with her more famous (but less funny) novels We Have Always Lived in the Castle or The Haunting of Hill House.

August Reading

This month was less busy but far worse in terms of health, worries and need for distraction. Of the 16 books I read, 13 were escapist literature. Two of the crime novels fitted into the #WITMonth category (one from Turkey, one from Romania), as did two of the more ‘serious’ reads. One was a chunkster, the International Booker Prize Winner Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated (and perhaps annotated/interpreted, as she freely admits) by Daisy Rockwell. I still hope to give it a proper review at some point, and we have a Book Club meeting about it next Monday, so I will leave it for later.

Kawakami Mieko: Ms Ice Sandwich, transl. Louise Heal Kawai, Pushkin Press, 2013.

This is an early work by Kawakami, a slight novella about an adolescent boy starting to learn more about life and people and empathy, through his harmless crush on the unusual looking lady who makes and sells sandwiches at the local supermarket. It is an understated story of loneliness, being ‘different’, feeling unable to stand by your convictions or support the people you love. Far more restrained than Heaven, but conveys a lot in just a few pages. And, it’s a personal preference, but I really like the way Louise Heal Kawai translates Kawakami and wish that we had more of her books featuring this translator! For a more thorough review, please see Tony’s. I do love the cover, though!

Tanya Shadrick: The Cure for Sleep

I picked this one rather randomly, after some recommendations on Twitter. It is the memoir of a woman who nearly died after the birth of her son and resolved thereafter to lead a braver and more creative life, to stop shrinking away from opportunity and hide in routine. It is the most devastatingly honest memoir I have read that does not feature any descriptions of addiction or debilitating health issues. It lays bare all the ambiguities of married life and motherhood, and the eternal conflict between the anchored ‘real’ life and the creative life. I don’t think I could ever be so frank, but that is why I prefer to write fiction rather than memoir.

As someone who constantly feels that I have buried myself too much in domesticity and looking after others, I found this book quite inspiring, although just a tad overwritten at times.

20 Books of Summer

So how did I do in my fabled (and very flexible) 20 Books of Summer challenge? Thanks to my discipline in June, I managed to read 13 books overall (8 in French in June, 2 Spanish/Portuguese ones in July, 3 from the random choices in August). I am currently reading the 14th one from the list, the Berlin-set Schäfchen im Trockenen, but I doubt I will finish it by the 1st of September. Not quite as bad as I expected!

This Way to Escapist Reading!

Over the past two months I’ve been reading a lot of lighter literature, what one might call holiday or escapist literature – and boy, have I needed it! This was partly because I was on holiday and did not have access to all of my books so I relied on my Kindle. Once I returned from holiday, I was laid up with allsorts of ailments for over two weeks, plus I was increasingly anxious about the health of my darling cat Zoe, which meant that my reading had to be less challenging and grim.

My definition of escapist is usually crime fiction rather than ‘uplifting’ or ‘feel good’ literature, so most of the books fall into that category, although there is some historical fiction in there as well. Overall, 16 books fall into the escapist fiction category: only three of them fit into the Women in Translation month category, although I read a few of the latter two (brief reviews to follow in a separate post).

Bride Price by Barbara Nadel

As always it’s a real pleasure to reconnect with Ikem and Suleyman and the rest of the team. Although Ikmen is retired now and a widower, and although my personal favourite the handsome and irresistible InspectorSsuleyman is about to get married, they still seem to find time to solve quite a few mysteries along the way. You gain most from reading these books in order because the characters grow, develop, get old grow, form all sorts of additional ties, experience loss, make mistakes – in other words, their development over the years is as much part of the story as the crimes they resolve. I had somehow missed the previous two books in the series so was surprised to find Mehmet about to marry his rather wild Roma lover, having left him previously in the arms of a different woman.

The books are always set against a well-defined historical and social backdrop: these are not just tourist descriptions of particular areas of Istanbul, we also get to experience some of the political and social changes that have taken place there over the years. In this book there are a number of things going on, perhaps slightly too many: is somebody trying to curse the upcoming wedding? What terrorist organisation is trying to poison innocent customers with ricin? Is there an international art fraud conspiracy taking place?

I then went immediately back to one of my favourites in the series, Land of the Blind, set against the backdrop of the 2013 Gezi Park protests (brutally quashed), where Mehmet is a bit of an arrogant bastard in the background, while Ikmen proves that he is the perfect and thoughtful husband, father and friend.

Divorce Turkish Style by Esmahan Aykol, transl. from Turkish by Ruth Whitehouse

I stuck to Istanbul for this next one. Kati Herschel is half-German, half-Turkish and completely stubborn. She owns the only crime bookshop in Istanbul, and can’t resist dabbling in amateur crime investigations. This case involves the death of beautiful, well-educated wife of a millionaire – but was she killed because she was about to divorce her husband or because she was an ecological activist?

Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu

A trip to Moldova next, back in medieval times, when wealthy boieri commanded full loyalty from their vassal lords, only boys could inherit, Roma were slaves and women had few choices but marriage or the convent – or else be accused of witchcraft. Brinzeanu takes one of the oldest and best-known Romanian myths (the Ballad of Master Craftsman Manole) and gives an alternative interpretation, steeped in injustice, malevolence and superstition. There is also a tender love story between social classes at its heart, but distrust and fear threaten to destroy it. There is a YA feel to this story (just like with the other recent historical novel I read set in Romania, The Book of Perilous Dishes), but that is no bad thing, as it ensures lively pacing, vivid descriptions, as well as strong emotions and often impulsive actions of the main protagonists, rather than endless cerebral agonising.

The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

Another historical romance with some cross-dressing like the previous book, but with far lower stakes (although perpetually threatened by possible accusations of fraud and treason)/ This is set in Georgian England, after the failed Bonnie Prince Charlie uprising, with two siblings disguised as members of the opposite sex to protect their identity. Aside from the misunderstandings one might expect, mayhem ensues when their con-artist father reappears to claim a vast inheritance. Not my favourite Heyer, but a charming and witty way to spend a lazy summer day.

Rocco and the Price of Lies by Adrian Magson

A combination of the historical and criminal: I love this series featuring Inspector Rocco in 1960s Picardie – I find them much more compelling and culturally true than the more overtly tourist-trap Bruno series by Martin Walker, but they sadly don’t seem to be as popular with readers. A cracking story about local and national interests, cover-ups and eccentric characters.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

I always enjoy a book about writers and this is a very clever, slightly metafictional study of the construction of a crime novel. The conceit is that an Australian writer sends chapters of her work in progress to an American fan because her latest work is set in Boston and she needs someone familiar with the place to correct any mistakes. However, the American acquaintance gets more involved than one might expect in the story and starts making suggestions for altering the plot or the characters. At the same time, we are given to understand that one of the four main characters in the fictional book is a killer but that the author herself has not yet decided which one it will be. As we get caught up in the story, we forget that all exists simply in the fictional author’s head, but there is the additional creepy element of stalking and real crimes starting to take place. A great fun read, easily devoured in half a day.

Hinton Hollow Death Trap by Will Carver – if you want to have your brains twisted and start doubting yourself, this sneaky and clever but dark story written by Evil Himself is sure to do the trick!

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan – a solid and gripping police procedural set in Galway and Dublin, with at least two very strong characters investigating, want to read more

The House Share by Kate Helm – I remember quite enjoying this as I was reading it, although the luxury communal living premise seemed rather far-fetched, but like fast food – haven’t got any lingering memory of its taste

Anonima de miercuri by Rodica Ojog Brasoveanu (Romanian) – featuring that suave old lady Melania, freshly out of prison for fraud, this is entertaining enough but feels oddly in misstep with the time in which it is supposed to take place (1980s Romania)

Violet by SJI Holliday – set on the Trans-Siberian express all the way through Beijing, Mongolia and then Moscow, this is an unnerving story with slippery characters, very atmospheric – although goodness, I was a much more cautious traveller at their age (wouldn’t make for a good story, though)

Death on the Trans Siberian Express by C J Farrington – another story where the Trans-Siberian train features, this time set in Roslazny – a sleepy Russian town along its route. Olga Pushkin is the railway engineer who witnesses a body being thrown out of the train and who cannot help getting involved in the investigation. This has the hallmarks of cosy historical crime, although it is set in 21st century Russia, but I love the idealism and resilience of fiery Olga.

Red as Blood by Lilja Sigurdardottir (transl. Quentin Bates) – a puzzling kidnapping and ransom case (with a side serving of tax evasion) – the second book in a new series by this prolific and talented Icelandic author, less action packed than her Reykjavik Noir trilogy, but equally fun

How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie – funny, completely amoral, highly political, this is Kind Hearts and Coronets for the present-day, another book that scores highly while reading it, but loses its fizz soon afterwards

As you can see, no time for lengthier reviews, but I do hope to be able to do a #WIT summary post too.

Friday Fun: Needing Holidays Again!

Another week of horrendous ill health (I’ll spare you the details) and generally feeling quite helpless and low about most things. I’m ready for another holiday, aren’t you? Escapism is more needed than ever before, so here are some pictures to put you in a more positive frame of mind.

Fairytale house and courtyard, with Encanto vibes, from Pinterest.

Nothing better than an inner courtyard with a water feature, from Mosaicstiles.com

A dream restaurant in the French Antilles. From Antillespassion.com
An unusual but spectacular inner courtyard at a hotel, from behance.net

A beautiful garden and sea views, what’s not to like, from wattpad.com

I do believe this is the Amalfi Coast? I don’t think I would want anyone sitting on those comfy seats, covering the view though. From extrapetite.com

Friday Fun and Another (Long) Break

After my long holiday and blogging break, I will now be taking another break, not sure how long, because of an actual break. For those of you who have not followed my self-pitying saga on Twitter, I fell over last weekend, fractured the elbow and sprained the wrist on the right arm (my writing arm), which has effectively put me out of action for pretty much anything. I can just about do my day job, albeit with speech to text software and frequent breaks, but I never realised how much you need two hands to accomplish simple tasks such as opening a jar of honey, cutting a piece of cheese or putting up your hair. Now that the boys have gone on holiday with their dad, I have no one to help and am beginning to understand why my mother put up with so much from my father over the years, and was so against me getting a divorce, terrified as she is of being alone and infirm in old age. (Needless to say, I still don’t subscribe to that view.)

But this post is called Friday Fun rather than Friday Accident, so on to cheerier things. I have put together some holiday pictures with a literary link.

George Topîrceanu was a Romanian poet and humourist, with family ties to the area where my parents were born and now live. This memorial house in Nămăești, Argeș, was where the poet’s mother lived and ran a weaving workshop.
View from the porch on the upper floor. The poet’s wife and son lived here for a while, and he visited them occasionally, but spend most of his time in Iasi, pursuing his literary activities (and a relationship with the poet Otilia Cazimir).

The Roman poet Ovid was exiled to the Black Sea port of Constanța, known as Tomis in Roman times, and apparently did not have anything complimentary to say about the area. There he is sulking in the main square.

Meanwhile, the Romanian national poet Mihai Eminescu is staring dreamily out to sea, in a sculpture completed in 1934 by the sculptor Oscar Han, through public subscriptions.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that the house where we stayed in Constanța, was the house where an important modernist woman writer Cella Serghi was born and spent most of her childhood. It is right next door to the beautiful Şuțu Villa, which is finally being renovated, as you can see from the tarpaulin covers.

This gives you a little bit of an idea what the Şuțu building used to look like before the scaffolding went up (overlooking the sea, naturally).

This example of a house on stilts from the Danube Delta region reminds me of one of poet George Bacovia’s most famous poems ‘Lacustrine Homes’

Meanwhile, in Bucharest, the Beer Cart (Caru’ cu bere) Pub, brewery and restaurant, with its art nouveau interior, was a much-loved meeting place for literary and artistic figures at the turn of the 20th century.

Finally, who knows, maybe someday they will say: this is the place where the translator and writer Marina Sofia spent her summer holidays as a child?

Back from Holidays – and Books Acquired!

There is no such thing as a relaxing holiday with the extended family back in the home country… but there were many pleasant moments, and a complete break from the treadmill, so I can’t complain! I’ve been boring everyone with endless holiday pictures on Twitter, but here are a few of my favourites, to give you a flavour of the landscapes and ‘vibes’. I will share more in my next few Friday Fun posts. [None tomorrow, though, as I have a lot of catching up to do still]

Barajul Vidraru – reservoir and dam

The Black Sea coast

The Bran-Rucar pass in the Carpathians
Sibiu

Although I had no time to browse in bookshops (unbelievable, I know!), I brought back a whole pile of books with me, some were old favourites languishing on my parents’ bookshelves, others that I had ordered online a few months ago and got delivered to their address. Meanwhile, a few books made their way into my letterbox here in the UK while I was away.

Here’s the result!

Romanian books:

  • As part of my search for contemporary Romanian authors to read and possibly translate, particularly women authors, I’ll be reading Raluca Nagy, Nora Iuga, Magda Cârneci (this one has been translated by Sean Cotter) and Diana Bădică. All recommendations via Romanian newsletters to which I subscribe.
  • A mix of contemporary and more classic male authors as well: Gellu Naum is better known for his avantgarde poetry and prose in the 1930s and 40s, or his wonderful children’s book about the wandering penguin Apolodor in the 1950s, and this is his only novel as far as I am aware (this too has been translated into English, see some reviews here); Max Blecher’s Scarred Hearts, which I previously read and reviewed in English, but wanted to own in Romanian; one of my favourite modern poets, Nicolae Labiș, who died tragically young; an English translation by Gabi Reigh of my favourite play by one of my favourite writers, Mihail Sebastian; finally, two young writers that I want to explore further, Tudor Ganea and Bogdan Coșa.
  • Last but not least, a dictionary of Romanian proverbs translated into English – just to remind myself of some of the old folk sayings.

Other books:

  • Another expat in Berlin story, imaginatively entitled Berlin by Bea Sutton. I read Susan’s review on her blog A Life in Books and couldn’t resist.
  • Two Japanese crime novels: Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Onda Riku (I was bowled over by The Aosawa Murders by the same author) and an older crime classic by Matsumoto Seicho entitled Tokyo Express.
  • Two volumes of poetry, Reckless Paper Birds and Panic Response by the English poet John McCullough. I recently attended a workshop with him and found him very inspiring indeed.
  • Last but by no means list: a whole flurry of chapbooks of Swiss literature, translated from all four official languages of Switzerland, published by the wonderful Strangers Press at the UEA. I am hoping to convince them to do a series on Romanian literature too someday, fingers crossed!

Friday Fun: Cape Town Apartments

One of my favourite cities in the world is Cape Town, because of its stunning natural location. You can find some of the most luxurious apartments with sea views there, although it’s problematic if we compare them with the dire conditions in shantytowns like Khayelitsha, just a couple of kilometres away. A third of the population of Cape Town lives in slums or substandard housing, 99% of the inhabitants of the slums are black, and it is very sad that this situation continues many years after the abolition of apartheid. However, this Friday Fun is all about escapism, so let’s try and forget about this for just short while and allow ourselves to think about holidays instead.

A more traditional decorating approach to this flat in Bakoven, from CometoCapeTown.com

Bantry Bay, Cape Town – leather seems to be a staple in South African interior design, but might get sticky in hot weather. From CapeConcierge.co.za

A very modern take, from James Edition.

You’d have to be very sure your neighbours wouldn’t be watching, but I rather like the idea of having a bath within earshot of the sea (I think you can close the walls/windows too). From Villa Concepts.

I liked these villas in Clifton View so much that you will now see them from three different angles, this one from The Pinnacle List.
The terrace for the Clifton View Villas, from Capsol.co.za

And a view from the opposite end, from Antoni and Associates.

Friday Fun: Viennese Apartments

After Paris and Berlin, how could I leave out my ‘home’ city of Vienna? Of course, I did NOT grow up in any of these fancy Viennese apartments, but I did have some friends who were housed in old Viennese Palais – which didn’t look at all like this back in the day, but were often run-down and full of drainage issues. Completely unaffordable nowadays, of course.

Most flats are completely unfurnished when rented or sold, but this gives you an idea of the volumes and the fancy light fittings. From coreal.at

The light fitting is not so fancy here, but I love the flowing spaces and the parquet flooring, from Willhaben.at
Here’s what a furnished one might look like – I am in love with the stove though! From Luxus Palais Wohnungen.

Sadly, most of the old buildings have been modernised beyond recognition. This one is just about acceptable (although hell to heat up in winter). From Falstaff.

But this penthouse seems a step too far, despite the dreamy views. From European Real Estate.

I have to admit I quite love this one, though… From Cuubuus.

But my dream home would be a flat in one of those inner courtyards, which were considered more modest back in the day, with lots of greenery. This one is a hotel now, Schreiner’s. From Hotelguru.

Friday Fun: Apartments in Berlin

Now that I have sung the praises of the large, airy 19th century Parisian apartments, I feel I should also mention apartments in Berlin. Some are in 19th or early 20th century buildings with the famous inner courtyards, but many warehouses have also been redeveloped. You will see that the Berlin property market is less afraid of modern architecture and interior design than the Paris one.

This is the kind of apartment I aspire to live in when I finally relocate to Berlin. Remains to be seen how feasible it might be. From HouseDiaries.com.

I just love those large windows, high ceilings, rooms flowing into each other (which is not ideal with small children, but it suits me fine now). From Pinterest.

There seem to be a lot of top-floor flats in Berlin, which could be very hot in summer and cold in winter, but gives you nice views over the city, such as this one from Tranio.com

An industrial conversion, rather New York loft style and perhaps appealing to all those wealthy expats craving to reinvent themselves in Berlin. From DezignArk.com

Perhaps a little too modern, corporate and bland, but what one could do with such a big space! From InteriorZine.

Quite a monochrome design, but enhanced by the greenery outside, from Forwardracingmtb.com

In the mood for holidays

It feels like this holiday has been a long time coming – once again, I am barely able to crawl down the finishing straight, and will have to resign myself to leaving a few things undone, a few deadlines unmet, but hopefully no one other than myself disappointed.

I am sure I am not alone in feeling that the last few months have been hard. Rising prices in just about everything, frozen or even dwindling income, very little of the work I actually enjoy coming in, lots of rejection for both translations and original work, even a personal rejection when I dared to open up a little to one person. The usual merry-go-round of concern about my sons’ academic progress and work experience (or lack thereof), house repairs, appliances going AWOL and unexpected additional expenses, plus major worries about Mlle Zoe’s state of health (and that of my parents), find a house and cat sitter etc. etc. So no wonder I feel ‘pleoștită’ – a beautiful, somewhat onomatopeic Romanian expression for someone who is battered, flattened, like a tyre with all the air let out.

I won’t be blogging or reviewing while I am on holiday, other than the Friday Fun posts which I’ve already scheduled. Nor will I be spending too much time online and reading your blogs. Instead, I will try to recapture my legendary energy and va-va-voom, if the heat permits. Here is the musical vibe I will be after:

(Although I am still mad that Stan Getz didn’t pay Astrud Gilberto any royalties for this super-hit)