London: The Break Up

by Guest Blogger

Before we started our full-blown love affair with Berlin, we enjoyed a few fleeting holiday romances. And as we fell in love with the city, we slowly fell out of love with our home at the time, London. We’ve heard the same story time and again, though rarely as eloquently put as in this post, from a (relatively) recent refugee from the Big Smoke. Presenting “London: The Break Up”, written by Marie J Burrows, and illustrated by Joe Wray.

Berlin vs London

I used to love London, until I found Berlin…

I used to love London. Hailing from a crappy ‘city’ in the Midlands, as far as I was concerned the streets were paved with gold, not just chicken wrappers. I live there for three years, and every time I was forced to leave it’s smoggy borders my heart yearned to be back, and on arrival after rushing off the train at Euston I would inhale the familiar smell of the tube affectionately; happy to be home.

This was three and a half years ago. The last five months I have spent living in Berlin, moving there after a brief affair a couple of years ago which left me wanting more. I left London with abandon, sad but excited for the future, thinking one day we would be reunited. Now I’m back I know that I was wrong. My relationship with London has soured dramatically, its fast pace now leaving me weary.

Tired of London, tired of life?

They say if you’re tired of London you’re tired of life, and tired of London I am not. I am however tired of its inhabitants, swarming frantically over each other constantly, its public transport, clogging its veins and its mentality, angry and unforgiving.

Since living in Berlin I have learnt to chill out. To not exasperatedly huff and puff my way around the person standing on the left on the escalator, cursing them for perhaps causing me to wait an extra 30 seconds for the next train. I have learnt to walk at a normal pace, not a shin splint inducing million miles per hour, even taking in my surroundings occasionally. I have learnt that it won’t kill me to stop and help people read a map or find somewhere, now I know what it feels like to live in an alien country where I struggle with the language.

Cruel to be kind

Kindness in London is also definitely in shortage. With all that rushing around everyone’s doing it makes it just that bit harder to stop and help someone with their suitcase, to give directions or just to meet that old friend for dinner (well they do live all the way in Angel, that’s the other side of the river!).

After only three days here, working temporarily in central I found myself already slipping into ‘angry Londoner mode’, hastily side stepping tourists/the elderly/children on the pavement lest they hinder my oh so important progress. I also felt that old tiredness start to creep up on me, that overwhelming tiredness which causes you to lie on your bed for five minutes when you get home out of sheer exhaustion. The tiredness created by the feeling that this is London, I should be making the most of it, there are a million and one things that I could be doing this evening! The tiredness from traipsing from one end of London to another, to a destination that is not even that far geographically, but which seems to take half a lifetime by bus.

Pricey ‘Privileges’

All this moaning without even mentioning the cost of living in this mayhem – a travel card for zones 1&2 now setting you back a hefty £30.40 a week! I’m already yearning for the more spacious and efficient transport I left behind (which isn’t hindered by snow either, whole INCHES of it in fact). The cost of living in London is also obviously a far cry from its German capital city counterpart, the idea of 50p litre bottles of beer here simply ludicrous (not only because of the new prices being implemented to prevent binge drinking).

Needless to say, I can’t wait to get back to Berlin. I may not be able to speak German very well, I don’t earn lots of money and health insurance costs the earth but hell, the people are nice, and that’s one up on you, London.

London Fashion Week Details: Monochrome

by Zoë Noble

London Fashion Week Details: Hardware

by Zoë Noble

London Fashion Week Details: Brights

by Zoë Noble

London Fashion Week Day 1

by Zoë Noble

Somerset House is always such a great backdrop for taking pictures. I saw these two walking away and it looked like a scene from a movie!

Uberlin, R.E.M. and Us

by James Glazebrook

Oh hai, R.E.M. fan. You’ve just Googled “Uberlin” in the hopes of finding out what the alt. rock superstars’ new song is all about. Well sorry, but you’ve happened upon a blog about a couple of English ex-pats trying to make a life for themselves in Berlin. But — before you bounce back to the search results — we might be able to shed some light on the city that Michael Stipe is so enamoured with.

As both R.E.M. and ourselves have learned, Berlin is an easy city to fall in love with. When the band announced that they would record their 15th album in the legendary Hansa Studios (the birthplace of David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy), they explained that

Berlin is a pulsing, exciting city with so many varied and distinctive neighborhoods, iconic history all around, great food at all levels and from every corner of the world… an excellent place to set up camp and make a great record.

Swap out “record” for “life”, and this echoes our feelings exactly. On one level, the name Überlin simply means “about Berlin” (über + Berlin). But, as “über” can also stand for “over”, “above” and “beyond”, this blog is about more than Berlin – and Berlin is more than just a city to us.

The song “Uberlin” capture the potential beauty of everyday life in a way that few lyricists other than Stipe can. He begins with the routine preparations for an ordinary day (“Hey now, take your pills… make your breakfast… comb your hair and off to work”) and ends up somewhere literally out of this world: “I am flying on a star into a meteor tonight.”

For us, the turning point comes in the second verse: “take the U-Bahn [underground/subway train] / Five stops, change the station… don’t forget, the change will save you.” Looking back, our move out here four months ago – which seemed so overwhelming at the time – was as simple as changing tracks, switching direction. But it may have saved us.

The original official video for the song told this wondrous, enigmatic tale by tracking something as mundane as the U-Bahn map itself, or at least a pretty close approximation of it:

The new (also official) video, directed by English artist Sam Taylor-Wood doesn’t move us quite so much – not least because it was filmed in the part of East London we just moved away from!

Either Wood didn’t fancy the flight out here, or she’s making a point – transcendent moments like the ones the song describes can take place anywhere, to anyone. While we’d have to agree, it’s here that we have finally found a rewarding life, one full of potential. It’s here that we “walk the streets to feel the ground”. If you want to know what’s so amazing about Berlin, feel free to explore our blog – it’s all we ever talk about! And this might be a good place to start…

PS – Thanks to Good Hard Working People for bringing the new video to our attention and making us realise that we had to blog about it!

Edit: the geniuses behind Normal in Shoreditch have uploaded a spoof version of the Taylor-Wood video that’s even more gloriously everyday. Now this makes us homesick:

Überstyle: London Fashion Week

by Zoë Noble

London Fashion Week