I am three weeks in to my latest attempt at teaching myself Polish. I first tried to learn Polish ten years ago while studying for my PhD. My research was based out in northern Poland in and around the city of Gdańsk, and so I put myself on a sort of crash course to learn the very basics so that I could get about the city, order a cup of tea, buy a ticket on the metro, that sort of thing. I worked with translators from the University of Gdańsk for my interviews, but I had to manually translate documents and newspaper articles myself which meant that the progress I made was in a very small, technical area of the language. I knew the words for ‘nuclear power’, ‘electricity’, ‘local government’, ‘international’, ‘solidarity’, but I couldn’t hold a simple conversation with the hostel owner’s six year old daughter.
On Sunday afternoon I said a very emotional farewell to the digital piano I have had for twenty-three years. In my pyjamas with a cup of tea next to me I pulled my grandfather’s crumbling score for Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier down from the shelves above the piano and played goodbye to my Roland with Prelude in C Major. It’s such a simple piece, but it’s one of my favourites. When I had finished, I closed the lid for the final time and began to disassemble the piano ready for the family who were coming to collect it from me later the same day.
On the way to town to buy birthday cards on Sunday afternoon, a man stopped us to ask if we were local and if so, where he could go for some lunch. Reliant on a walking frame he explained that he couldn’t go very far and that he wasn’t familiar with Birmingham, but that he happened to end up here as a result of a mix up with the trains. The question, it turns out, wasn’t really about lunch, but rather an excuse to start up a conversation. Step by painful step we continued in the same direction as him for some twenty minutes, covering just twenty metres in that time, but also more than twenty years of his memories. Love, loss, disability, loneliness, despair and the cost of living, but also his love of classics, philosophy and memories of all the places he has called home over the fifty seasons he’s seen come and go.
In May I began work on my first feature length documentary. I filmed everything on location between May and August, and I have just finalised the edit. Last night I hosted a private premiere for the stars of the documentary and I wanted to write about the experience because it’s a milestone for me, and one I don’t want to forget.
As someone who loves to read, I own surprisingly few books. Part of this is practical. I love physical paper books but they take up space and when you live in an apartment space is at a premium. Another part of it is financial; new books are expensive (I don’t see Amazon as an option). The third reason though is the most important reason for me, and that is that I find by ‘owning’ a book I have paid full price for, I feel compelled to complete it cover to cover and then hang on to it even if I don’t like it. I have wasted months of good reading time trying to force myself through books I don’t enjoy, half a page at a time. The reason I have read fifty books and counting this year is because I have almost exclusively been reading library books. They’re ‘mine’ for four weeks at a time, and if I don’t like something, I simply return it unread. It’s been liberating.
I have been making sourdough for about eighteen months now, but it’s only recently that I’ve felt like I’ve got the hang of it. Yesterday I bought some new varieties of flour to experiment with different types of sourdough. This loaf is 25% rye and 75% plain white, and the crumb is perfect. It’s not too heavy but the rye gives it a lovely flavour. I don’t weigh my ingredients like I would for a cake because I’ve been making bread for years and can eyeball what looks right in terms of dry to wet, but I do use measuring cups to make sure that the balance of flours is correct.
I love spring and summer best. Daylight from 5am to 9pm, everything is green, all the doors and windows are open, and even on an overcast day the world somehow feels full of life. Every autumn, without fail, the melancholy settles in around mid October. It’s not as bad as it used to be as I make sure I get out for a walk every day and have introduced hobbies that don’t require light in the same way photography does, but I struggle with the gloominess and lack of light, and I just don’t like the colour palette of late autumn as green, red and yellow fade to bare branches and slush. There are some things I like about autumn though, so here’s a little collection of them.
On my eighth birthday my parents packed up the house in Berlin where we had lived for four years and our family moved back to England. English was my first language, my parents were British, I had gone to an English language school in Germany and I held a British passport, but culturally I didn’t feel British. I didn’t know what a pound or a penny was, having only ever used the Deutsche Mark and Pfennig, and I didn’t know the pop-music or TV shows that were popular among English children my age either. We had SSVC and Cartoon Network in Germany rather than BBC and ITV. I simply didn’t hold the cultural reference points that other children who had grown up in Britain did, and felt like a bit of a misfit.
I thought I’d share my skincare routine because every time I tried searching for a minimalist skincare routine for normal skin I found routines with ten steps and twenty products, and to me that’s not very simple! If it’s not simple then I know I won’t bother with it for long. I’ve put together my own routine and I’m sharing it in case it’s helpful for anyone else who is looking for a simple, minimalist skincare routine.
This month I read an interesting article about voice, pitch and the gender bias present in recording and broadcast technology. Out of curiosity, I tried to find out what the pitch or frequency of my regular speaking voice is. It turns out it is F# below Middle C. I have an alto singing voice, although I haven’t sung in a choir since I was eighteen, so the range doesn’t surprise me but the pitch is interesting.