City boy goes to the country. Country things happen to city boy.
Taking a breather from Ben Aaronovitch’s on-going story of the Faceless Man, and giving PC Peter Grant a break after having his partner, PC Lesley May turn traitor and join with said Faceless Man to drop a brutalist high-rise apartment block — the story of Grant and architecture right there. Off to Herefordshire.
About half-way through Foxglove Summer, I opened Maps and traced the story, based in Leominster, following the River Lugg up to Mortimer’s Cross, up the gorge to Aymestrey, into the parks and forests of Croft Castle and Gatley Park, where the land folds in long, north-east to south-west ridges, all the way to Raymond Erith’s Folly, with its domed roof, full of bees. It took a while, but worth it.
This could almost be read on its own, if you were prepared to let references to past events slide, and characters arrive with little or no establishing scenes. Sometimes I like that, an antidote to the plodding literalism of much genre fiction which has to tell and explain every step. So we have fairies, retired wizards (with granddaughters with said bees), unicorns, Roman roads — and Romans, countryside relationships (even queer ones, ’cos rural doesn’t mean parochial), Beverley Brook, goddess of the same river in London, who arranges for a small stream near the Lugg to be reborn (with help from Peter) kidnapped children and changelings, and the original forest of Britain. Just the kind of diversion he needs — and just the kind of opening up of the series so it doesn’t become one tiresome slog to nail a singular evildoer.
And if I could not like this series more, there’s a quiet love of hoonage throughout, from PC Grant’s Ford ASBO, to Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale’s Jaguar Mark 2 with the 3.8 litre XK6 engine, to the Utes of Herefordshire, and a Ferrari 288 GTO in the next novel (which I’m taking as a poignant homage to Iain Banks’ The Business, also, yes, “Brutal.”). He’s got my heart here, Muslim ninja cops and hoonage.
My glorious Fulcrum Racing 5 CX wheels needed the front wheel’s cones tightened. Break out cone spanners and all the usual mess for a hub-gutting. But, no! All I need is a 2.5mm hex key to spin the pre-load ring tighter. Could probably be done without even removing the wheel. Out-farking-standing.
Once again, after some two hours of riding into Brandenburg, on country roads, cobblestone lanes, gravel farm tracks and single-track trails, just south of the new (and still unopened) airport, I reach the end of the road.
Magic end of road had a little hook through a copse, under a fallen tree, on the narrowest of barely-used paths, through a short spur of forest, spitting me out on the cleanest of new access roads around barbed wire airport fencing. Two more hours of gravel, cobblestone, track, trail, path, road, canalways, towns, fields, forests, to close the loop back in Kreuzberg.
“But were there Nazis, Frances?”
“Yes, Other Frances, there are always Nazis in Brandenburg. These ones rode crappy, old East German scooters with coal scuttle helmets through Zeuthen, and looked secretly ashamed and sad.”
Landesmuseum Oldenburg’sPrinzenpalais Galerie Neue Meister has many more rooms than the Augusteum I’d just visited. Mostly 19th and 20th century painting, a bit of German Impressionism, Classicism, Romanticism, and Cubism, all of which I barrelled through — I like my Expressionism and the there’s not much before it until we’re back in the Baroque that I get excited about. But there was a period when German landscape painting was kinda awesome, naturalistic yet stark, with subtle elements of all those movements making imposing, large-scale works. There was also Fritz Machensen’s Die Ziege, and I love goats. I’d probably even be ok with a Cubist goat.
As for the Expressionists, Max Pechstein! Two works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Der Wanderzirkus and Bube mit Bonbons, neither of which I’ve seen before. And women Expressionists, who get shafted in the history of the movement — even in the big Impressionismus – Expressionismus. Kunstwende I didn’t see any women Expressionists, and I’m pretty sure I’d photograph them if I had. Here we have Gabriele Münter, one of the founders of Der Blaue Reiter, and her work Puppe, Katze, Kind; Emma Ritter (who doesn’t get an English Wikipedia page, just like so many other women) and her works Stillleben mit Äpfeln, and Ziegelei; and early-Expressionist Paula Modersohn-Becker and her Stillleben mit Orangen und Fayencehund. While I’m talking about women artists in the early-20th century, Paula Modersohn-Becker died of a post-childbirth embolism at age 31.
Two other works I really liked are of women. Willy Jaeckel’s Damenbildnis because there’s something really Weimar Republic queer about this woman. Jaeckel was yet another Expressionist labelled Degenerate by the Nazis who didn’t make it to the end of their rule. Jan Oeltjen’s Bildnis der Schauspielerin Else York als Heilige Johanna because it was jammed in a corner and deserves to hang somewhere far better, and after that, because whoever Else York was, she has left no trace I can find.
Finished with the Prinzenpalais, I realised I had more than enough time and no excuses for schlepping over the road and into the Oldenburger Schloß.
One spoke is an accident. Two is not a coincidence. And two different mechanics saying, “Your rim is worn out—stop laughing!—your rim is worn out. You need a new one,” plus the cost of replacing a single spoke—let alone a full wheel rebuild, and when the hubs are also shot, meant bonus! New wheels! Minus side, I indeed cannot afford them, nor the replacement cassette, nor the replacement brake pads and cables.
Nonetheless, suck it up and all. I did my homework, cased multiple options, narrowed it down to a couple, then found one of them for 2/3 the normal price online, and yesterday a well fancy pair of Fulcrum Racing 5 CX arrived. A walk to bike shop and back, cassette fitted, tires swapped on (and let’s pause for a minute and remember the set of Challenge Strada Bianca I got a couple of weeks ago), now just recable-ing and doing the brakes.
And let’s remember six years of fucking glorious riding, bashing through forests, especially my favourite one around Flughafen Tegel, snow, rain, hail, ice, slush, mud, wild boars, foxes, falcons, dust and grit in warm summer mornings, endless laps of Tempelhofer Feld, thousands of kilometres on those old wheels now boxed away (I’ll probably bring them out when I want to practice trials skills or something equally rim-destroying). Cheers old wheels, you were mint.
Friday morning, perhaps the last hot day of summer after a week of proper heat and sun, David & I plus bikes meet at Alexander Platz, half an hour S-Bahn to the Dandenong of Berlin, Spandau, and bike south.
We get out of town quick, along side streets, past some farmers, and arrive at the Havel. From the opposite site I’m used to seeing it. There’s Grunwaldturm and the low hills of the forest across a glare of water. Along the shore for half the length, then inland past well posh houses, entirely around Groß Glienicker See, then into the water, swimming off the dust and heat.
Lunch, then on further along perfect fast trails through Königswald, around most of Sacrower See, and more swimming. We have time for the ferry (about 250 metres of cross-Havel distance works out to quite a few euros per kilometre), so stop in the Romanesque Revival basilika of Heilandskirche am Port von Sacrow.
More riding through Schösser and Gärten and Jägerhöfe, Wirtshäuser, through Park Babelsberg, and suddenly at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof and home in time for dinner.
Morning ride in the forest around Flughafen Tegel last weekend, when I was on residency in Isabelle Schad’s studio in Wiesenburg, Wedding. Up by the small lake, “Cripes that’s a massive dog,” at the dark, solid mass running across the track. “That’s no dog!” I think as it pauses and give me the beady eye in profile, “Wild boar! Cripes it’s big!” It potters off on skinny legs into the undergrowth where I can hear it and companion scruffing and foraging. This is right at the narrow end of the forest, houses and backyards just beyond the block of trees.
As usual, I pause on the lake rotunda and enjoy the view and stillness. A woman comes by with a pair of dogs. I say, “Excuse me, are you going left up ahead?”
“Are the wild boars out? There’s more than twenty of them in the forest,” she replies, quite proud of her mob of swine. “We had at least 14 piglets this year!”
Berlin, where I’ve run into a fox by Alexander Platz, saw another hunting a cat at night in the Uferhallen, where the forests in the city are full of wild boars, and there’s rumour of a wolf in Grunewald.
A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us wandered into Grunewald and found a meadow at the north end completely hidden from other wanderers. Dasniya and Tam returned recently, up Teufelsberg this time. She showed me the photos on Saturday and blogged them herself. (Her blog is much more interesting than mine!)