Thursday, May 25, 2023

Freelancing, Greek Snacking, and May Sunshine

It's been a while, but there's not that much to tell...

I've met with seven former colleagues since leaving the company, and it's been nice. At the same time there is still an 'echoing' quality in my day-to-day life now: I'm still more used to being more sociable, and at the workplace was probably in contact with fifteen or so people per week.

When talking with people and going to events for my freelance reporting, it's still kind of lonely (which is apparently why some professional journalists prefer being employed in a newsroom). It really is unlikely I'll ever see them again. But of course I like going out and understanding the world I live in better, and altogether the freelancing feels like what I was born to do.

I did an interview for a part-time job in tech support, which I did amazingly badly at. While I haven't gotten a final rejection yet, it's probably time for me to move on to the next application.

Volunteering is what I'm doing to feel like I'm working alongside everyone else — sometimes I did get the feeling that freelance journalism is more fun than I ought to be having, and only in the past week has it begun to feel like a real full-time employment of it own. That said, the supply of donations for Ukraine has temporarily dried up, so when I last went to the former Tempelhof Airport hangar, I was told that no help with sorting donations was needed at present. I could call a telephone number to check in whenever I liked.

As for the Greek class, it's nicer even that I'd hoped, and the amount of progress I'm making is amazing. Showing up for class regularly, and having made a little effort over the years to keep up the language, are paying off. And now that I know more Greek people in Berlin and have gone shopping at a Greek grocery store etc., I can really see myself applying the language.

At the Greek grocery store, the last time I bought halva, tahini with lemon flavouring (as addictive as Nutella, to me), sesame candy sticks, oregano potato chips, and more banana jello mix.

But I'm also starting a routine of shopping at a zero-waste store once per week. While I'm really enjoying cooking for myself again and trying new delicacies and just enjoying life in general, buying so much food in packaging seems unsustainable. Besides the store is nice and I want to support it.

As for the financial realities of freelance journalism, the impression is gradually sinking in that the market in Berlin is saturated. It feels difficult to publish anything. While the press seems to be supported infinitely better here than in North America, and it's also a luxury as a consumer to have the good assortment we do, I think it's also a dwindling market. So I guess I was just naive and overoptimistic.

In real terms, I need to accept that I may end up not publishing anything outside of my own website unless I begin to write marketing copy. It's not that bad and I'm hoping a part-time job will help me keep going without professionally publishing anything; but if I produce something truly excellent when freelancing, it would be nice to be confident that a professional editor will also see it and acknowledge it.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Full Steam Ahead in Greek and Amateur Journalism

It's been as busy a time as ever.


On May 1st I went cycling off to make photographs of a peaceful morning demonstration by some of Germany's largest trade unions, metalworkers, music teachers, chimney sweeps, and rail workers amongst them.

I was a little in hokey awe of the open and pluralistic nature of the event. For example the Mayor of Berlin (whose policy and demeanour I'm generally not in favour of, otherwise) also walked in amongst the tents of a Volksfest in front of City Hall (where the procession ended) without revving up an armoured tank and wearing a cavalry helmet to do so. Maybe I'm too easily impressed by this point.

And while we were processing around Berlin-Mitte, I looked up at the crane at the top of a high-rise building, which workers use to clean the windows. And by a train of thought association, I was impressed at what union workers and manual workers do to keep the city and the country running.

I interviewed two men who have been in legal limbo for years after seeking asylum in Germany.

In the evening, I didn't cover the bigger Revolutionary Demo. It ended in organizational chaos when it was stopped early. But the police and the city government were pleased by how quiet it had been this year.

Instead of trying to write an article, I just posted photos with detailed explanations.


I haven't finalized my article about Austrian literature. But there's a draft and now mainly I need to work on an illustration.

As for the fashion industry article, I need to research it more and to find a hook that's more compelling than 'this is activism that happened 1 week ago.'

Besides I need to be vigilant around conflicts of interest when I write about fast fashion: certain industry actors who are, for example, refusing to sign onto safety legislation in Bangladesh, are ones whose customer requests I helped fulfill in my previous job.

That said, I visited an art exhibition on the workers of Rana Plaza and their families, today, and took photos. So one further step is complete.

I think I was fooling myself a lot about the role I was playing in the fashion industry in the past job — although, to be clear, I'm not judging anyone else or saying they need to have the same threshold. It felt morally superior, compared to the average mass of consumers, to intellectually see and understand the waste in the industry.

But it's not just an environmental question. Looking at photographs of the dead bodies of workers who have been killed while protesting their working conditions, manufacturing clothes that maybe I helped sell online, really hits you like a brick.


If it's not too fetishizing, I was thinking while walking around Kreuzberg today that I'd like to do a series of photographs about workers. (To be clear: just with my smartphone; I don't use an analogue or hybrid camera yet while I'm practicing.) There's something soothing about watching people put cobblestones back into place on a damaged sidewalk, or a plasterer at work in the hallway to an inner courtyard, or someone kneeling quietly beside the stream of passersby to redo the paint on a low garden wall.

It was also a beautiful day in general. Lush green grass lighted up by the sun from behind, mystical white globes of seeding dandelions, shy little bluebell flowers, lilacs just bursting into blossom, thoughtful white rhododendrons hiding in the shade, unbelievably hued Moulin-Rouge-red roses, and sleepy-looking horse chestnut flowers about to 'wake up' with another day of May sunshine.


Yesterday evening, I was tired and wanted to stay at home. But instead I went to a glossy events venue in East Berlin to watch a question-and-answer session with Barack Obama.

He's been fundraising for his foundation by holding mass events in three European cities, although the Berlin press has generally been emphasizing heavily that it doesn't know that this is where the money is actually going.

I found the event quite depressing.

As a reader of news and as someone who'll be affected by world events, it was depressing generally. But it was also depressing personally.

Hopefully I don't seem self-aggrandizing by drawing any parallel, but the former President's mood about American and world politics at the macrocosm level reminded me a lot about my mood about the company that I used to work at.

He was as pessimistic and exhausted as I've ever seen and heard him, he looked ten years older than he is (but maybe mainly because he was tired of travelling), and he seemed to be trying to deal with no longer being able to influence things that he'd find it important to influence while things are heading to hell in a handbasket. The motto 'Change Over' that was broadcast before he stepped onto the stage might have been a clue of what would follow.

But I don't blame him for not painting things in rosy colours! The world doesn't resemble a François Boucher canvas.


As for my Greek (guest auditing) studies, I'm making faster strides than I expected. A month ago, I could barely string together 5 words. Now I can write and speak entire paragraphs. The professor and fellow students are consistently lovely.

But I'm still not optimistic about being able to handle courses that are taught only in Greek in November, without a major additional effort, like travelling to Greece or getting private tutoring. (Tutoring which I'd want to share with the fellow students, who I think are anxiety-inducingly overoptimistic about how easy it is for someone who's been learning modern Greek for 1 year to make the jump).

Saturday, April 29, 2023

A Visit to the Leipziger Buchmesse

It's been many years since my mother and my uncle M. have gone to the Leipzig Book Fair. It takes place in spring at the same time as a Comic Con, is a bit of a festive time in the booksellers' calendar, generally has a theme that is often a country, and draws attention from major German TV broadcasters (ARD, ZDF/3Sat, ARTE). These broadcasters and the Book Fair organizers host podium discussions and other events.

This year's guest country at the Book Fair is Austria.

Back here in Berlin, I've undertaken a journalistic project about the Austrian theme. I still need to finalize it, but it meant cycling around Schöneberg and Kreuzberg on Thursday and yesterday to mini-interview librarians and booksellers about their favourite Austrian books. I even pinged the Austrian embassy in Berlin (which replied, via their cultural forum), and a German Literature professor at the Freie Uni (who hasn't replied). To be honest, it's now mentally associated with so much effort that I can barely stand to talk about it any more!

Thematically, however, I felt that the invasion of Ukraine might be the secondary emphasis at least in the literary events. This is the first Leipzig Book Fair that's taken place in person, instead of virtually, since the invasion happened, which may help explain it.

Major prizes have also been handed out to a handful of lucky authors. I'm currently reading one of the prizewinning authors' works: Unser Deutschland Märchen by Dinçer Güçyeter. It is an accessibly written, topically tough book (is it semi-autobiographical fiction?) about multiple generations of a Turkish family, of which a daughter was sent to Germany in an arranged marriage. The plot goes further, but that's as far as I've gotten.

Anyway, this morning I set off to the train station. The family had eaten breakfast; and Ge. had kindly looked up and written down an itinerary for me. At the station I was able to buy tickets to and from Leipzig from a friendly Deutsche Bahn employee who had a pleasant Berliner accent, and who also seemed to gulp a bit at the cost of using the ICE rather than the slower Regionalbahn. She was all set to provide me with a Deutschlandticket [49€ monthly ticket that allows you to travel through all of Germany with the Regionalbahn]; but I was low on cash and my debit card had hit the weekly limit, so I decided not to combine errands.

It was meditative travel weather: overcast sky, a few faint drops of rain but nothing insistent, a clammy-looking mist in the middle distance, and a nice classic impressionistic colour scheme in pastels of faded-red roofs, pale green birches, yellow rapeseed blossoms either 'escaped' and growing wild beside the tracks or filling fields with apparent sunshine, faded earth colours of the building walls, frail dark branches (sometimes colonized by globes of mistletoe) in the trees that don't have all their leaves yet, and speckled white and very light pink fruit tree blossoms.

I liked it very much, and so eventually did a trio of children who were being quietly obedient and finally running riot beside me. It was a somewhat packed train, and as I hadn't reserved a seat I found an aisle where it was easier to be out of the way.

At Bitterfelde I had to change into the S-Bahn, and then we rolled more slowly through the periphery of Leipzig until we finally reached Leipzig-Messe station. We were a bright stream of people, unlike the shades-of-black winter clothing colour palette that I'm used to from Berlin's city streets, because Leipzig's Comic Con is also a favourite opportunity for cosplayers. And while there are two short tram lines leading to and from the convention centre, I joined those who were walking.

It was an intimidating throng that gathered at the doors when we had passed the shallow waters of the large reflecting pool that extends from the glass entrance hall. But we were processed surprisingly quickly, and I was able to buy an entrance ticket (I hadn't pre-booked) with minimal effort. The ticket seller almost whispered to me that I'd have an easier time getting in to the hall if I took the route to the left, so I gladly followed his advice.

A ZDF-3Sat stage was just hosting a discussion where an author explained the background to his novel about Pompei. I listened in briefly, but then wanted to get to the exhibition halls. What amused me was the raised podium that celebrated the winners of the Leipzig Book Fair prizes: there were three or more coffee tables that had the prize-winning books chained to them, and chairs around, so that you could sit down and read them but not run away with them.

It was going to be under 1.25 hours that I could roam around, before I'd catch the train back to Berlin hopefully in time to do amateur journalism at a protest against unsustainable fashion consumerism. So I sketched out a quick mental plan, and headed to Hall 5 in the back and decided to work my way forward while keeping a sense of time, like Cinderella before midnight. I didn't have my smartphone along, having left it merrily charging (out of sight and out of mind) in my room, by accident; and there were no clocks in the convention centre.

Hall 5 was an excellent choice, as it turned out to be where the independent publishing houses were displaying their books. I knew a few of them by name, like Kröner or Unions Verlag, but others I didn't. The booths for self-publishing and books-on-demand were also popular.

Afterward I landed in Hall 4, where the stalwarts of the German publishing industry like Reclam, S. Fischer, and Kiepenheuer had far more sprawling booths. There were also stands for different countries: Poland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovenia — and organizations like an Israeli-German one or the Italian Cultural Institute of Berlin (whose flyer for events I nicked tout de suite).

As I'm unemployed and I only had 20€ at hand after paying for the Book Fair ticket, I felt unable to dip into the books, or talk to people at the stands without raising expectations that I was bound to disappoint.

But I made one exception: I spotted the stand for my favourite music score publisher. I was so delighted that I fan-girled to the lady who, dressed as elegantly as a trans-Atlantic airline attendant, was personning the stand. She heaped 'freebies' (paper tote bag, pencil, postcard, free sample booklet of easy songs for piano) on me when I mentioned that I had tons of the publisher's books at home.

Despite my budget, I also bought a Rachmaninoff Prelude in d minor, which cost 6€ and therefore did not break the bank. I'd felt guilty for playing that prelude from a photocopy for years, so I had the nice unexpected feeling of crossing off an item on my 'bucket list.'

But it felt as if time was of the essence after that. So I passed fairly swiftly through Hall 2, which had another stage that was for the broadcaster ARD this time, and other things that I've forgotten, and passed through the turnstiles and exited the glass entrance hall again.

It was 12:38 p.m. on the display screens at the tram stations, so I was back at the train station in time. The trains were also far less empty on the way back to Bitterfelde, and thence to Berlin.

I came back to Berlin too late for the event, mostly because I needed to fetch my smartphone from the family apartment if I wanted to photograph the event anyway; and because protest events rarely last as long as announced. But I still had a nice quick cycle to Alexanderplatz, and then back home, amongst hordes of tourists; and now I'm exhausted ... but pleasantly exhausted.

(Aside from the Austrian books project I mentioned above, I've been adding daily 1 hour cycling time for university Tuesdays to Fridays, Greek homework, 1 hour weekly volunteer work at the clothes donation sorting place, a journalistic project on sustainable clothing shops in Berlin that is as intense as the Austrian books project, a trip to Kreuzberg/Neukölln yesterday for a cycling protest that a former colleague believes deserves greater publicity, and other things I'm forgetting now.

I also find it hard to get over the shy sides of my character when these things require human interaction.

So I want to create more breathing space again for me to just observe things and let the news come to me; and I am desperate to cover live events that don't require reams of research and where anonymous observation is generally informative enough. A few booksellers expected me to already know lots of Austrian authors when I mini-interviewed them, for example, so I've had metaphorical beads of sweat on my forehead quite often.

But I also need to do far more 'dry dock journalism.' The lack of certain basics will become ever more apparent the more I do things in the field — and I am hoping that being willing to do tons of legwork and seeing things in real life rather than aggregating online content will be a 'unique selling point.'

For example, I ran into a lawyer who specializes in media at a protest where I self-introduced as a freelance journalist - I've been too lazy to look up the formal definition, and I think I'm too used to reading about e.g. a North American media culture where citizen journalism might be more accepted than it is here.

The lawyer's friendly but slightly stern advice made me very much want to dot my 'i's and cross my 't's from now on, so I won't have a cartoon 'Eep!' thought bubble metaphorically pop up again. I started watching videos on YouTube about German media law [by a law professor who cringe-worthily referred to himself in the third person, but I figure that hearing that is a sacrifice that must be made] — e.g. the guidelines about whom I can and can't photograph, when.

I also want to ask if he has a website or reading recommendations if I bump into him again, to be honest.

That said, I'm undermining all of these good intentions of taking more time to relax, informing myself before dashing into the field, etc., by revolving thoughts around my head of trying to cover the May Day protests on Monday — which would be at least mildly stressful.)

Anyway, I'm glad I went to the Leipziger Buchmesse especially because Mama had told me for years I could tag along with her, and I like the idea of carrying on a family tradition— I've just never had the time and money to consider it seriously before!

Friday, April 21, 2023

The First Week as a Gasthörer

On Tuesday and Wednesday I went to Greek classes at the university. Also a Spanish class that I couldn't stay in (there were too many other students who needed to attend and I found out belatedly that the guest auditor programme didn't cover it).

It was a little stressful.

For example: My old Greek professor would be glad to have me back in class, I was pretty sure although we hadn't seen each other since a party at the family apartment in 2018. But no answer ever arrived to the inquiry email I'd sent weeks ago. So I was taking a risk by showing up.

Besides the scheduling is early in the morning (8 a.m.... eurgh), and I feel weird sharing resources with properly immatriculated students who are 10 years younger than me who deserve more of the spotlight. Also the logistical bumps in getting even this far are making me more and more anxious about actually being accepted as a student in November.

Then on Wednesday evening I developed a congested nose, and have had to stay home the rest of the week. So much for launching smoothly into the semester...

That said, although individual grammatical things are spectacularly lousy and it's clear I won't be able to follow along a class entirely conducted in Greek after I accidentally showed up to a first-year class instead of the introductory class, I feel like I'm not behind the others in the introductory class. The work I've put in here and there to keep up with Greek over the years has been useful.

Besides I am beginning to feel that at least in terms of having a tidier room, cooking and baking at leisure again (I prepared ayran with yoghurt, water, salt, and dried mint leaves today), working away on writing and photography projects, taking care of houseplants, and feeling like I have time for family and friends ... my life is beginning to sort itself out again.

It's not the full picture. But I'm a little less hopped-up on anxiety than 1 or 2 months ago, my conscience is more at ease, and I no longer feel when I'm communing with thoughts of my father that I've gone a bit astray or that there's something I'm leaving undone or that I'm wasting my life (I just need to keep going on this new path: not give up).

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Travels to Alsace: The First Day

Travelling from Berlin to Strasbourg is not genuinely fast (I think) even though we were taking a bullet-train-shaped, white, speedy Inter-City Express, which peaked at over 245 km/h during our trip.

It was before 10 a.m. on a cloudy morning when we passed the dandelions, red deadnettle, daffodils and grape hyacinths in front of the train station, found our platform, and then eventually pulled out to our first stop: Wittenberg.

Platform at Leipzig Hauptbahnhof, April 11th, 2023

After that: Leipzig, Eisenach in terrain that began to be pleasantly hilly in comparison to the flat floodplains of Brandenburg, Frankfurt am Main with its characteristic cluster of skyscrapers.

View of farmyard from Berlin-to-Strasbourg train, April 11th, 2023

We paused there for 15 minutes, in a riveted, steel-framed hall typical of pre-WWI railroad architecture, with restaurant advertisements on electronic billboards.

The family and I were seated in 1st class, not so much because we wanted to live like kings, but because it was the best way to book seats close to each other. It also serendipitously meant that my siblings could order chili con carne and coffee for lunch, and have it be brought to their seats!

Then we pulled out of the station again, in the direction we'd come, and curved around to the southwest.

But before we left Frankfurt: a train employee announced on the public address speakers that a freight train had been abandoned on the tracks, so we would be rerouted past Darmstadt. The final stop of Zürich was also cancelled: the train would only reach Basel. (But this was more a problem for other travellers; we wouldn't be going that far.) This led to incremental delays adding up to over 30 minutes, and the employee kept checking in on connecting trains at the various stops to see if they'd wait for us or not.

At Baden-Baden, whose railroad station looked nothing like the grand, imperial edifice I'd been expecting given the town's opulent history, we switched to a French TGV (très grande vitesse = high-speed) train upholstered in patriotic blue.

Crossing the border was fuss-free, and we never had to show our passports (or even our tickets, after leaving the Deutsche Bahn), thanks to the Schengen Agreement. We just rolled over a broad arm of the Rhine between Kehl on the German side and Strasbourg in France.

We reached Strasbourg in the early evening.


We were booked in a hotel near the city centre, at a bridge over one of the canals, in a four-storey half-timbered apartment building that had been painted yellow and adorned with Easter decorations.

It was possible to walk there from Strasbourg's main train station, the Gare Central, with its restored, early 20th-century, red sandstone front façade almost unblemished, encapsulated in an egg-like bubble of glass.

But it was clear that Strasbourg is a touristy city, with students and EU diplomats as well, and we almost had to use pointy elbows to navigate past the pedestrians and cyclists, who were generally moving at speed. (That said, the restrained use of perfume is popular in Strasbourg and I liked catching in the streets; I was also intrigued that the men generally had neatly trimmed hair, which seems like a lot of upkeep but quite dashing; and I gazed for a while at the bicycle paths and the pillars with green and red lights and the ubiquitous zebra stripe crosswalks to try to figure out how the traffic works exactly.) T. had been there before, and conducted us unerringly to our residence.

Checking in was fast, and then we were in our rooms.

The others were staying in a courtyard room: despite its modern aesthetic, the blue and white wall-to-wall carpet, linen-patterned walls, and coloured photo print of three young girls wearing the massive traditional Alsation headgear in fashion from the late 19th century, all tributes to the region in which we were staying. The exposed, varnished wooden beams of the half-timbering (colombage) were also a tribute.

As I'd only agreed to join the trip to Strasbourg after she'd made the original arrangements, T. had booked me into my own small room, which I grew to like a lot. It had a comfy, white bed. The bathroom was also nice: it had a little sewing kit, a hair net and scrunchy, as well as a wooden tablet with artisanal soap and hand cream and body wash. And I appreciated the view of the street below, with an épicerie and a bakery at the corner, old dormer windows, the spire of the Strasbourg Cathedral, pigeons, a clock that always pointed to 6:05 no matter what time of day it was, the comings and goings at the foot of a bridge, and a nice slice of sky.


This first evening we went to dinner in a wooden building in the city centre, right above a bridge where the water was thundering through a disused mill run, with more classic white-plastered half-timbered houses above the cobblestones.

View of Strasbourg street near restaurant, April 11th, 2023

The tables were covered in red and white plaid tablecloths, then a pebbled white layer that looked a little like a bib and which spoke volumes about the experiences the restaurant had been through with spill-prone tourists...

The restaurant's menu featured Alsatian casserole (Elsaesser Baeckeoffe) with beef or duck or lamb in red pottery dishes. It also had varieties of Flammkuchen which is a type of super-thin-crust pizza that is also popular in southern German-style restaurants in Berlin. Choucroûte is part of the typical smells that waft through the streets of Strasbourg: a meal of sauerkraut, potatoes, and sausage. There were also other odds and ends — including the Salade à chèvre chaud (warm goat cheese salad) that I ordered. It's not really a useful or endearing quality, but I've become a bit precious about food and was a little disgruntled for example that there weren't more vegetarian options...

The coffee I ordered as an inexpensive substitute for dessert was nothing to write home about. But I think I figured out eventually as we stayed in Strasbourg that French restaurants seem to offer cheap café rallongé as a regular thing that's about 2.50 to 3 Euros, and then special gourmet coffees that are 7 or 7.50 Euros. Maybe the gourmet coffees are the ones that taste like the ones we can make in Berlin.

We did share two bottles of sparkling mineral water amongst us. I did feel tempted to get sirop à l'eau, but in the end decided against it.

I'd felt prudent for taking along travel candy in the train to France, knowing from past experience that when my blood sugar levels drop and my travel anxiety kicks in, I become like the snobby city person in Hallmark films before they have a Scrooge conversion.

But for visiting restaurants, the travel candy didn't suffice. I considered this one a tourist dive. — Meanwhile my mother was taking undoubtedly a better view: seeing things through rose-tinged glasses, reminiscing wistfully about eating Elsaesser Baeckeoffe at her wedding reception with my father, and feeling happy that she was visiting the right places to get to know her Alsatian mentor/mother-figure's native culture...

Either way, the rest of the family was happy with their meals.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Cycling, Home Cookery, and Indolence on the Day Before Studies

It's the first day of the university semester... but I have no classes scheduled for Mondays! So instead I spent the day as I wished, on unscheduled things.

Breakfast was coffee and orange juice; and I did half a page of Greek and read the Guardian headlines, and then read a book for fun, and tidied my room.

Then I cycled off to a charity to drop off donations that have been in my room for a while. Although I was daydreaming and therefore cycled the wrong way at first, a detour on a quiet Monday morning to the Zoologischer Garten area wasn't bad. But I reflected yet again that Berlin is far behind in the springtime vegetation cycle compared to Strasbourg, where the horse chestnut leaves had already spread greenly and amply and the first lilacs were blossoming!

After that, Ge. prepared porridge with an apple cut into it, and that was our lunch.

Grocery-shopping, as well as laundry, took up more of the morning. The Turkish supermarket was bustling, either due to the time of day or due to people being antsy to have food ready for iftar. (It's the month of Ramadan and, as always, many neighbours are celebrating it.)

Then I went off to volunteer for about an hour, sorting clothes donations. It was pretty quiet, but also easy to become absorbed.

It wasn't the most cheerful weather, but it was still possible I suppose to find aesthetic enjoyment even when there wasn't the rare sunny interval.

For example, I enjoyed cycling behind a mother and her toddler as I got closer to the apartment. There's a wonder-filled Age of Curiosity that young children go through that I like very much, and this toddler was in the middle of it. Her head encased in an extraterrestrial-green helmet was wobbling a little with the motion of the bicycle, as she was not yet old and strong enough to hold it steady as she sat behind her mother. But she swivelled her gaze back and forth, then poked out a finger like a delighted, pleasant little dictator and chirped something to her mother when she found something she liked (I think she spotted the bright gold blossoms on a maple tree).

When I returned to the building, Ge. was returning from a 'wild goose chase' to get our sewing machine repaired. The shop wasn't able to order the required spare part.

In the late afternoon I prepared a lunch of green asparagus with fried eggs, then — from Yasmin Khan's Ripe Figs cookbook — dinner: red bell pepper-and-walnut dip (muhammara), flatbread (lavash) that I did not bother making from scratch, and Greek greens (horta). For dessert, I had bought a mixed salted and roasted nut mix of pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, and almonds; and sweetened chestnuts. And Ge. had bought tiramisu. It all tasted delicious and I reflected happily that sometimes putting forward effort into spoiling one's self really works. And J. prepared chicory coffee for after the meal.

I'll need to wake up very early tomorrow morning. But in the meantime I may research my World War I story further, or write up an account of the journey to Strasbourg, or do something lazy!