Up in Wedding to visit Dasniya for my first bit of Physical and Social non-Distancing in weeks. Steamed fish, potatoes and those weird German favourites, Chicorée in her newly renovated studio with loft bed, loft storage and dividing wall knocked out. We were in a food coma afterwards. A walk – small walk, mostly sit – along my fave canal in Berlin, the Panke, which reminded me I need to go for a ride up its length.
Practicing Physical Distancing again, Part 2. On the sandy old road of Ziethener Straße that becomes a very sandy, frictionless slide of singletrack running parallel to the S-Bahn on the way back to my happy place, those 1200 metres of cobbles along Mozart and Petkusser Straßen. I was having a very good time here, and my only other thought was, “One bidon of electrolyte and a banana is slightly on the thin side for three hours.”
Practicing Physical Distancing again by going for a ride south of the Berliner Mauerweg ’cos it was getting like an outdoor festival along that stretch. Like the virus takes Easter off ’cos, “I respect Jesus when he’s harrowing Hell. Also, bunnies!”?
Plan for the day was around 60 kilometres of riding, following the Mauerweg all the way to the Canal in Lichterfelde and then reversing, mainly ’cos I like riding the roads and trails around Großziethen and want to explore them more, and ’cos the thought of hitting the Mozartstraße cobbles twice. Twice! Today would have been Paris-Roubaix and on the Sunday in Hell we worship cobbles. Plan got bailed on at Marienfelder Allee. I’d already been thinking of finding an alternate route back with all the people, but crossing that highway, both sides of the street lined with people on bikes all jammed up together. 0/10 partaking in that wilful stupidity.
South then, which I kinda know, ’cos I rode through Großbeeren a couple of times before, and was all, “I know here, I think I got lost here,” and fanging eastwards at Frederikenhof (which is on the opposite side of the fields I photographed last week), and riding the prettiest old roads and trails, heading back to those cobbles. There’s another photo, saving that for the next post, just before I turned north on the so sandy it’s a beach without the ocean singletrack, going parallel to the S-Bahn. Much slippy slidey and nearly kissing the floor once. Very wrong tires and tire pressure for that kind of fun. Still fun.
Those cobbles again, hitting them at speed, in the big ring and in a slightly harder gear and just floating over them. Very vibrational floating, but ooh yeah does cobbles riding come alive when you’re going fast. And then on to Kleinziethen (near Großziethen, duh!), and finding the way back to Rudow I’d meant to ride out on. More pretty roads and turning onto Rudower Straße, hitting 3 kilometres of tiny cobbles. I could have ridden the asphalt bike path, or the asphalt bike strip on the shoulder. No, I couldn’t. Bit of a killer in the end, just on and on and getting drained and it was a warm sunny day also, not my ideal riding weather at all, and by the time I was hauling down Neuköllner / Rudower Str. / Buschkrugallee / Karl-Marx-Str. I was feeling it. Not feeling it so much I couldn’t destroy a bro on a fancy gravel bike who tried to chick me at every set of lights from Rudow to Teltow Kanal. Every set of lights. And started shouting at me ’cos apparently chick going faster than bro make bro sadangry? And by ‘destroy’ I mean kept the same pace I’d been on the whole time. Okay, a tiiiny bit extra pace. I’m petty like that.
And photo. Physical Distancing. You may be able to see some people in the distance.
Part three of practicing Physical Distancing by going for a ride along the Berliner Mauerweg.
This photo is never going to do justice to the insane yellow-green of the fields, or the empty flat expanse, and if you look really really really close, you’ll see a few people wandering out in it. This was just before I turned off the Mauerweg and took a guess at how to get back to Neukölln. Favourite way of riding, that. So long as the sun was more-or-less behind me, I was going home. My bike’s in truly terrible condition these days, two years now since the last rebuild and I’ve done something like 12,000 kilometres and some of the components have done way more than that. But it’s amazing how it just keeps going (until it doesn’t hahahaha not funny when I’m in the middle of nowhere).
Yes, this is work. I’m still a dancer, and doing ballet barre at home and all the yoga and core and other work is part of it, but doing this kind of physical labour is necessary for me. It feels like after more than twenty years of this, if I stop I’ll fall apart. And I’m very aware of the luxury I have (despite being poor and all the other caveats) to do this, now especially. Let’s talk about Gaza, or white French doctors proposing testing Coronavirus vaccines in Africa, and casually dehumanising a whole continent in the same sentence they do the same to sex workers. Or the massive increase in racism, Islamophobia and Asianphobia (dunno if that’s quite a word but it’s defo a thing), simultaneous with governments pushing through anti-transgender legislation and utterly destroying the arts.
I loved biking through and around Großziethen for the third time in as many weeks and loved seeing so many Muslimah women and families out there. I feel very much calmer getting into Brandenburg seeing them and knowing it’s not all Naziland like Zeuthen was when I last biked that scary town. And as I came back into Neukölln, I saw gangs of cops out, five or six of them at a time, all white, all in stab-proof vests and heavy gear, and all of them doing the intimidation act and harassing brown boys. Yeah, don’t think we haven’t seen that fuckery get dialled up in every country in the last few weeks. It was a good ride, but it’s never not political like this. Every time I go out, it’s political.
Part two of practicing Physical Distancing by going for a ride along the Berliner Mauerweg.
Going clockwise from Neukölln, it’s all pretty cushy up till Lichtenrade – the whole Mauerweg is pretty cushy, just the distance and very varied surfaces. Around Lichtenrade is the first (optional but not really ’cos we’re here for it) single-track, hard-packed sandy earth alongside fields, shortly after which rail lines cut the Weg and it’s a two-ish kilometre detour into the very pretty and very expensive-looking, most southern suburb of Berlin, along some of the roughest cobbles I’ve ever had the pleasure of being pounded in the arse by. (Hands are not so thrilled with the pounding, but suck it up, hands.)
It’s quite difficult in a photo to make cobbles look as gnarly as they really are, and this final section, looking back up Mozartstraße. from the corner of Beethovenstraße is the smoothest of the lot. And maybe I’ve been riding cobbles so much that I’ve got used to them and know how to ride them, and my memory is more of the thrashing I received the first time than how far from flat and smooth they really are. Anyway, I always wanted to photograph them to remember how much fun I have on them. And every time I hit some cobbles I think there should be a Spring Classic in Berlin, touring the cobbles. This lot would be in, the brutal cobble hill on Wannseestraße by Griebnitzsee also, and the hilariously rough and slippery and corner-y and defo scary when it’s wet and there’s any velocity involved Jägersteig in the forest of Waldgelände Frohnau at the far north of Berlin. Cobbles. Better than asphalt.
Practicing Physical Distancing again. I needed to get out of my apartment, out of Neukölln, out of the city, do some riding, riding until I forget to think (takes at least 45 minutes), not hard riding (which is what Tempelhofer Feld so easily becomes, round and round, pushing pushing).
I got up early with not enough sleep to get to the supermarket before it got too hectic, same young guy working physical distancing out front, stupid white dude inside taking ‘me in mask in the vegetable section’ selfies, holding everyone up. Cannot imagine bro is any kind of influencer. Third week of no toilet paper in any of my usual supermarkets, one said, “Ja, not for another two weeks,” me getting fancy with shower bidet these days. No pasta or beans either.
It took me a couple of hours to get motivated to do the riding, starting again with the dead nice cobbles on Neukölln side-streets as I headed east, then onto the Berliner Mauerweg, which was sort of busier than last week but more spread out, a few stupid white dudes on bikes going way too fast through busy areas or blowing snot from their nose, and then it all quietened down when I went off on a track I’ve never been before, turning left at Dörferblick instead of right, and vaguely heading for Großziethen. That’s part one, anyway, spring in Brandenburg, blue skies after months of grey and damp and cold.
North-west Europeans love silver birch, and German painters love it like no other. There’s this park of them along the Berliner Mauerweg, Südpark, a bit east of Dörferblick, where they’re planted so thickly it’s like a German Impressionist riot. I’ve seen at least one painting somewhere this committed to vertical white lines, not going to get carried away and try to find it.
Doing self-preservation riding again, and avoiding Tempelhofer Feld on the weekend. First, finally did the Weserstr. cobbles, which are dead tasty. Then, did the same ride as last week but in the opposite direction, and when I got to a bit after this photo, turned off to Großziethen, ’cos I thought I might find a way up that massive old rubbish hill from last week. Didn’t. Good ride anyway.
It’s been about 2 years since I last got my arse into a studio and did a ballet class. Good reasons for finding other physicalities to entertain myself since then, going deep in cyclocross and riding, enjoying cold and wet and windy work outside. But I missed ballet. I missed the good things of being in a studio doing the work, I missed being there with good teachers and brilliant pianists.
And this week, I’m back working with Isabelle Schad (remotely, of course), and needed something to get me going, something quick and snappy with a variety of intensities and velocities, something to put me in where I needed to be for the work. And I found Het National Ballet are live-streaming a ballet barre. And first day of doing it was wow have I come far from all that, like a memory of being a dancer but watching myself in the mirror (of course I did, it’s ballet training) I was laughing at how I have all these muscles that are very not from dance, and how much and how my body has changed in the last two years. On the third day though, I started to see it all again, physicality waking up and unburying, and yeah, enjoying it so much.
Ernst Meisner is such a cheerful teacher and Rex Lobo is a joy of a pianist. And doing it live, knowing they’re both in the studio as I’m here in my apartment, and there’s hundreds or thousands of other dancers whereever and we’re all doing it together, it’s truly beautiful and reminds me of how dance saved me over and over (and how dance is also a hard bitch, but, yeah, let’s just enjoy the good stuff for one day, eh), and how special dance is, how fundamental moving together is for life.
I don’t want things to ‘return to normal.’ Normal is us living with your fear. Normal is us dying anyway. Normal is a weapon that belongs to you. Normal is what got us here.
There are no contrails in the spring sky.