I’ve read my share of crime books (albeit the milder versions from Agatha Christie and the like) and enjoyed them all, but for a while now, I have more or less been avoiding crime books. When I have time to read, I prefer to read about life in all its different facets, but preferably not the side dripped in blood and preferably nothing which is too tense for those precious moments before falling asleep.
How nice then to stumble upon a series of crime books by Tom Hillenbrand which isn’t horrendous. ‚Cosy crime‘ as the author himself describes it, which is probably why I like it so much. Top-chef Xavier Kieffer from Luxembourg gets mixed up in a crime scene and goes about solving it – in-between cafe-hopping through the elegant streets and plazas of Luxembourg and concocting fancy meals at his high-class restaurant. Just enough dramatic tension to keep you interested, but little which could be accused of disturbing sleep.
The mixture of playful characters reminds me of another series of books which I devoured – namely the humorous and heart-warming escapades of Mma Makutsi in Botswana, in her attempt to battle petty crime in the ‚No.1 Ladies‘ Detective Agency‘ by Alexander MaCall Smith.
I didn’t start with the first book of the series by Hillenbrand. But I’m already looking forward to the remaining culinary adventures of Xavier Kieffer accompanying me through the long train journeys over the festive season and the upcoming weeks of maternity leave. The books are sadly still only available in German, but there is hope for English language translations sometime in the future.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. The recent history in my adopted country is dramatic and rich. And such an anniversary provides the opportunity to learn much more about it – with newspapers and websites offering an array of historical accounts, analyses, commentaries and pictures.
25 years ago, I emigrated with my family from India to England. The events in Berlin at the time meant nothing to me as a little girl discovering a new life in the west. Over the years, history classes in Britain explored the events of the World Wars in detail, but little of what happened next.
My first ever trip to Germany was at the turn of the year in 2004-2005. A good friend made through the ERASMUS program at university invited a group of us to spend new year’s eve with her in her beloved Berlin. After hearing so much about the place during her year in the UK, I remember how excited we were as we made the long road-trip from Birmingham to Berlin. Arriving on a typically cold and grey (but still somehow never dreary) winter evening in Berlin we celebrated the turn of the year watching the fireworks from a rooftop terrace and the following day visiting Potsdamer Platz (a central point left divided after the erection of the wall) , Checkpoint Charlie (the most well-known crossing point across the wall) and marveling at the graffiti-covered remains of the Berlin Wall itself- all the classic tourist spots – before heading to a quintessentially cool Berlin bar.
Over the last decade, I’ve seen and learnt more about the post-war time in Germany little by little through visits to Berlin, film culture (if you haven’t seen them, ‚Goodbye Lenin‘ and ‚The Life of Others‘ are a must) and stories told by friends and family. I’m looking forward to pouring over the Sunday papers today and reading more stories about the historic events in 1989 and it’s impact on modern day Germany.
It’s been almost a couple of years since I sang regularly in a choir. Life got in the way and I didn’t feel like I had the time to spare for my much-loved hobby. Arianna Huffington points out in her book ‚Thrive‘, that this is the last thing that we should be doing in times of stress; cutting out the things that nourish us the most.
So a new start in Munich has meant a new start in a choir. I’ve forgotten how making music at the end of a long day can leave you feeling revitalised. I’ve heard Mendelssohn’s Elias once in concert before. But the chance to piece together and learn a dramatically beautiful oratoria such as this one, bit by bit, over weeks and weeks is something I have missed. Because working so intensely with a piece of music is worlds apart from just listening to it once or twice. It gives you the chance to discover and appreciate melodies and harmonies which are insanely beautiful. To have a sense for the complex passages. And it leaves an imprint in your very bones, so that when you hear the piece of music again months or years later, however fleeting the passage, it seems like the most familiar thing in the world.
Rehearsals have only just started, and there is a long way to go and a lot of work to do. But I’m looking forward to every bit of my autumn/winter project, which should brighten up many dark evenings and just about see me through to early spring.