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EAST / WEST

 Three weeks in and my throat is sore and my feet are tired. I'm not getting sick, I'm not getting sick, I tell myself. Berlin is kind of amazing, so grimy and bustling and dynamic, so rough and interesting and striking. It's unlike anywhere I've been before - something about the post-war GDR architecture, all sparse and industrial but bright and kind of epic. The ceilings are so high, the linoleum floors beautifully well worn. There's no fussy details, which makes the small things, the light and the modern fixtures kind of sing within all that space.  I'm staying at the Michel Berger Hotel which a friend recommended years ago. It's great - relaxed, interesting, a lovely room and a damn nice bar. It's a nice walk to Kreuzberg where I've found a few good cafes and shops (especially the French toast at Roamers), though there's a lot of nothing in between. Mitte seems much more established, good shops, amazing lunches, quiet streets, polished buildings and boutiques. I like both, though, for their differences.

Berlin is so rich with culture, for lack of a better word. I find the history so enthralling, how it swings between extremes and not so long ago cut right through the heart of the country. I was 9 when the wall came down, 27 when I read Anna Funder's Stasiland and came to understand what had unfolded, and now 34 walking these streets. It's so impressive the way Berlin has rebuilt itself, how the reaction has been to celebrate art and difference and quality of life above all else. It's a city that feels alive and evolving at all times. 

I've been walking all day, everyday. Galleries and museums and train stations long blocks away. I thought about hiring a bike, but I quite like all the walking  and anyway things seem either too far to ride to or just right for a nice walk. It has tired me out, three weeks later. You might not know this about me, between all my talk of clean sheets, yoga, cups of tea and good books, but I'm not much for partying (HA). I know Berlin is supposed to be a good night out, but after an early dinner and a wine, or a couple of beers like tonight, I just want to take my pants off and watch BBC World News in my room. It's been a constant, between Danish, Swedish and German telly, and quite a comfort. The hotel has been playing The Big Lebowski on loop too, which I watched the night I landed, and smile when I catch moments of, but probably couldn't manage again. It's nice just winding down from the day, thinking through it all again in the quiet, taking it in again and finding I understand it different or better with the distance. 

I've been going a bit mad with all the Instagramming, can't help myself - much more to see if you want to have a look at the month through my eyes... 

SUNDAY / 19

 I woke up in Sweden to a grey Sunday, though the afternoon was sunny. The light here in the north is confusing me, already just finding my way through jet lag and a week of running about in London. I've read that the circadian rhythms of our body are naturally aligned with the moon, just like the sea. I woke at 2 or 3, with the sun, as easy as if it were 7 and had to make myself go back to sleep.  Only a couple of days here in Sweden so I headed out to the Moderna Museet, by the harbour. An interesting enough collection, and always a nice way to pass an hour or two. Galleries are how I familiarise myself with a new city or country, usually the first thing on my list to do. The picture is from a nice reading table they had in between the Ernest Cole exhibition 'House of Bondage', which poignantly documented the lives of black South Africans during Apartheid. An afternoon wandering in Södermalm, a wine and an early dinner at a local bar and then the train home was about all I managed after that. 

YEAR TWO. 

YEAR ONE. 

NORTH

 I'm writing from Copenhagen, where I've been the last few days. England was wonderful, so familiar and so much a part of who I am all these years later. But there's something so amazing about being in a country where you don't speak the language. Where all the traditions and ways of doing things seem different and interesting. It's good to have space to think too. I stayed at a nice hotel when I landed, and am now settled in a cheap but brilliant AIR BNB in the Norrebro district.  I had dinner with my old friend Anne last night. She has two children under four, another on the way, works full-time as a lawyer and met me at a very hip local bar, on her bike, in spite of the rain. Six months pregnant and already put the others down to bed and nothing but a smile for me. I don't know how she does it. It was so lovely to see her, we had big bowls of mussels and fries with aioli and lots to say. 

Today I went for a big walk, had a brilliant latte at the Collective roasting house, bought way too much good stuff at HAY, and am now reading my book at a cafe near the university library, drinking a gooseberry soda (of course). They've been playing Blossom Dearie for the last hour which feels pretty wonderful. I'm trying to make time to just sit and be, to be present and allow my mind to wander and dream and create. I have a bad habit of doing too much in my real life, so time like this feels special. Important. 

I'm having dinner with my friend Leonard later, and his new GF who I can't wait to meet. He lives in Sweden, but near to the bridge and Copenhagen. He's one of the friends I message most days, share articles and music with, confide in and laugh with. I can't wait for real life hugs and beers and proper talks. 

SUNDAY / 18

 So busy having a nice time I forgot to post my old SUNDAY picture. The simple Glory of St John Bread and Wine, just before the light afternoon rain, wine and late-lunch in hand.  Since then I've been taking my time, taking things in. Churchill's War Rooms, the tapestries at the V&A, a light installation in a car park in Soho, good lattes (hurrah for working that one out London, you sure took your time), luscious walks and sits in Regent's Park (which is nearly bursting with spring), trying on dresses at Selfridges. I had some good wine and some wonderful catch-ups with a VERY old friend at Sager and Wilde on Tuesday, and have spent the last few days in North London with another old friend. We've lived apart so long I didn't realise how much I missed her - so spoilt with full days and nights to cover the important stuff like babies, yoga, relationships, French handcreams, particle physics, feminism, inappropriate emails, high fashion, comfort fashion, cream cheese, LA, and, you know, life. 

YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE.

AWAY

 I'm writing this from London, from a hotel bed just after 6 AM. I'll be staying with friends most of the time I'm here, but wanted a couple of nights in crisp white sheets to sleep off the jet lag and find my feet in this old town. And the ACE is in my old stomping ground of Shoreditch, and they always do such a nice job of things. I first came to London when I was 18, for a three month holiday and ended up staying four years. I was having a drink with friends at a pub in Hoxton yesterday, a beautiful old British pub with real pints and wood paneling and picnic seats out on the Broadway Market where we watched all the hipsters go by on their bicycles. It was grey but bright and just springtime-enough not to wear a coat. I was talking about how different London was, East London especially, fifteen years ago. We laughed as I pointed out that I travelled with a walkman and had only just got a hotmail address, that I didn't get a mobile for almost two years. It was a different world and a different way of being. But it still feels like yesterday, as well as so damn long ago. 

London is so easy, so blissful for me. I know how to get everywhere and all the good places to go. I know which laneways in Covent Garden are best for getting to the National Gallery and all the side streets off Brick Lane. It's like all the hard work has been taken out of travelling and it's just amazing. This morning I'm hiring a Tokyobike from the hotel and riding up to London Fields to have breakfast at Violet Cakes and I can't wait. 

On Sunday I landed early and took myself straight off to the gallery, bought some new jeans from Liberty, and had a late lunch of viognier, perfectly-simple-in-season asparagus, some cuttlefish and soda bread at St John Bread and Wine (all very understated old-school British). I spent yesterday morning at St Paul's Cathedral, my all-time very favourite place in the world. I used to go on my day off to listen to the evensong and marvel at the space, the detail, the tradition. I lit a candle for my grandmother, who isn't well at the moment, and hoped for her to know the strength and love she has given to us all. Walking across the Thames to the TATE Modern afterwards, I looked down to Tower Bridge and Butler's Wharf where I used to walk most days. The tide was out and I could see the heavy stones and debris the city washed up. And as it was a bank holiday I got to have not only afternoon wines with my friend Ness, but a lovely walk along the canal, some overdue catch-ups and way too much good food at Pizza East. 

I head down the coast in a few days, the grey English seaside and proper fish and chips are imminent. 

WHEN YOU LISTEN / 17

  * Marlon Williams, real life dreamboat and man about town. I've stupidly missed all of his shows (and I think there've been a few), but have heard he puts in a cracking performance. All charm and old-soul sounds.  * Strange Tails by Lord Huron - I don't know how I came by it but have hardly stopped playing it. From the first listen I was deeply committed. A week later I was writing a very serious and angry email to my ex, but took the time to add a 'PS This is the best thing you'll hear all year, I promise xx'. That says a lot, I think. 

* Ryan Adams Live at Carnegie Hall is of course a feature. How could it not be? All the glory of his beautiful songs (his beautiful songs!) and all the banter between songs. I love the insight into his humour and habits, and such a perfect set list. Solo and solemn. 

* Windfall is the new Joe Pug I'm just getting to know. His voice has a special place in my heart - having seen him in NYC a couple of years ago I played his Messenger album nearly non-stop all the way to New Orleans. I remember sitting in our Savannah studio just before dusk and feeling like life was amazing. This new collection is sounding pretty good too. 

* Andy Shauf is new to me and already dear to me. These songs are swingy and sweet in parts, and more layered and moody in others. His voice gets soft and raspy, a bit of the Elliot Smiths to it, and so lovely at that. A brilliant find for the long hours of travels I have ahead. I can't wait to get to know all the details of the songs.

* Hozier has long rugged hair, an Irish accent and sings about epic kinds of love - total heartthrob situation. I can see why this album is doing so well, powerful songs and a beautiful voice with a nice bit of bluesy, soul. 

* Ibeyi are two wildly talented French-Cuban sisters who are currently blowing my mind. I heard their spectacular song River on Flashdance's May playlist and downloaded the album straight up. You have to get onto this. 

* How do you find words for the new Sufjan Stevens? Probably best to just read Dave Eggers, to be honest (which is good life advice regardless of the question now I think of it). It's so tender and emotive, so beautiful and terribly sad. I love listening to it. 

* Josh Garrels is my kind of sweeping, romantic, guitar-loving listening. It sounds a bit folky and feels really natural. 

SUNDAY / 17

  A weekend away, ostensibly as a gift to Katie for her birthday, but mostly an excuse for Clare and I to spend time with her and drink wine in the afternoon.  We went to Canberra to see the James Turrell retrospective at the National Gallery and stayed in at Hotel Hotel. The exhibition was a spectacular study of light and space that kind of blew our minds, in a really lovely way. The way it challenged our perceptions and all looked so damn beautiful. We saw Rothkos and Pollocks afterwards, and Clare's favourite Rosalie Gascoignes, and spent lots of time with the Sydney Nolans.

We loved the hotel too, they've done a wonderful job of it - brilliant design, kind and efficient staff and spectacular attention to detail. The whole precinct at Acton was impressive actually, as was a morning cycle around the lake just after 9, our hands and ears numb in spite of the glorious sun. We all love an excuse to stretch our legs and embrace the fresh air, so we were a good team. 

The drive home was a different story, however. I provided some good listening with Dear Sugar, but talked the girls into some greasy fries at the truckstop (see above). The light was nice though, and who doesn't love a booth seat? 

YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE. 

SUNDAY / 16

The street where I live, just after 6 AM on a Sunday. Quiet, clear light like you only get at that hour, a burst of golden from the street light and not a soul.

I went to a three hour intensive yoga class with Ana Forrest, a Native American warrior of a woman who teaches and practices yoga in an intensely emotional and healing way. Quite a start to the day. Between the meditation, the chanting, the dance and some amazingly strong inversions, I kind of came alive. I'd been carrying some hurt for a few weeks and my heart, the back of my heart, was aching away. She had us breathe into a part of ourselves for healing throughout, each pose drew us back to and then out of the emotion. And by the end of the three hours I felt good. Happy. Sweaty and smiling all the way home for a long shower.

I got a latte from Brickfields for the drive over the harbour and had a roast lunch with my family and my Nanna for Mother's Day. Custard fruit tart and old records in the afternoon...

YEAR TWO.

YEAR ONE.

JUST QUIETLY

It's been pretty quiet here lately. Just my SUNDAYS for the most part. Truth is I'm having Wordpress issues, life issues, and can't-find-the-time issues. I have so many wonderful songs to share with you, a whole window of tabs of solid gold reading to share with you, a few damn fine dresses to share with you, the usual stories. 

But finding time and patience are a bit of a stretch this month. So if you need me, I'll be at work, or drinking wine in my kitchen listening to Alabama Shakes or the new Shelby Lynn (thanks KCRW).

Be right back.

* Picture unknown