You are as delicious as gnocci

This week it occurred to me that I’ve been living here a month. I’ll do something lovely for Dan to celebrate, I thought. But when I looked up on my calendar to find the exact one month anniversary, I realised I’d already missed it. Time goes so fast out here.

The weekdays pass with reading and writing and coffee and cooking and the weekends are Dan time. I find I’m never not looking forward to tomorrow.

Last Friday morning, Dan and I caught the first U-Bahn. We spent the weekend in Hannover attending an exhibition at the IAA of Dan’s work for Mercedes and hunting for Indian food. We stayed in a ridiculously cheap Airbnb with a ridiculously comfy bed and a gorgeous view.

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It rained constantly and was freezing. Stuttgart is in a big dip and therefore never has any wind, which we realised we’d been taking for granted when we had to buy coats and jumpers over there. When we arrived we sought shelter in a simple and beautiful Italian restaurant and I had my first glass of red wine since last winter with a seafood pizza.
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Obscurely, I’m learning more Italian out here than German. Angela, who lives next door to Dan in Stuttgart has been teaching me the language over beers and introducing me to her Italian friends. My very favourite thing to say is, ‘tu sei gnocco’. It means (when said to a man) ‘you are as delicious as gnocci’.

We’re going to her flat tonight and she’s cooking us a traditional Italian meal. We’re bringing extra plates and cutlery, flowers and, of course, prosecco.

I still have no idea what I’ve done to deserve this life of free rent, Riesling, creativity and self-care. I’m so extremely aware of how fortunate I am. It’s the first time I’ve not had a job since I was thirteen.

Someone pinch me.

Aside from our apartment, there are three places in Bad Cannstatt I love to write. For my early morning sessions, an Italian café, for mid-morning and lunchtime, a French bistro, and for the afternoons a German brauhaus.

This new story I’m writing I get more and more interested in every day. Angela says when I talk about it there’s a light in my eyes and Floss and I have been laughing about the characters like they’re our friends.

With any luck, there’s something wonderful brewing, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned since being here is that wonder breeds wonder.

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DAS WAR LECKER

“DAS WAR LECKER!”

Compared to its much softer English equivalent: it was delicious, the hard consonants make it so aggressive, or as I like to think of it, passionate. The louder you say it, the truer it is.

It’s my favourite German phrase (out of the 6 I know).

I learned it to make sure that when I’m eating and drinking out I can use it to compensate for my lack of language knowledge of everything else.

Restaurants and bars are where it started, but it’s also wonderfully applicable to cold showers on hot days, fresh morning walks and my time so far with Dan in Germany.

I haven’t worn make-up in a week. No one does here. My beautiful boots are gathering dust and I’m living in trainers. My hair has been treated to bountiful and cheap conditioning treatments and is softer and shinier than ever, rolling down my shoulders like silk. I’m fitting in. Not because I want to change myself, but because my mindset has been purely ‘explore and embrace’. It’s not a question of why, as much as why not?

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For a few hours each day, I visit Sophie’s Brauhaus. The waitresses bring me coffee and help me with my German (just this minute she’s told me we’re only speaking in German from now on). I write and write.

My new book is brewing, bubbling and steaming at the back of my head. It’s gradually making its way forward. I’m doing the research and prep I can to coax it closer to the front of my head, so I’ll be able to shut my eyes and watch it play out.

Quitting my job and giving up our lovely flat was really difficult. For the few weeks after when the whole ‘I’m voluntarily unemployed what am I doing??!’ doubts were loud and harsh, I was so worried I’d not made the right decision.

Now I’m here and so totally happy and relaxed, eating, drinking, reading and writing all day, I’m still just a tiny bit worried because it’s so perfect and what on earth have I done to deserve this life? Will I wake up to discover it was just a few too many glasses of wine that lulled me into a long delirious dream? Even now, writing this, I’m beaming.

Stress has always been a driver of mine. Heat and pressure have made me thrive. Before I arrived I was terrified of boredom and slowness to the point of stopping, but Germany has even given me an answer to that: there are wasps everywhere. I just moved my bum further backwards onto the bench I’m sitting on and felt a sting. Happily it was just a prickly hedge.

Granted, the goosebumps I get when I can feel a wasp land on my hair aren’t quite of the same calibre to when I get a tricky brief and a tight time limit from a client, but goosebumps are goosebumps (right?).

But the very best part of being here? Every day for the last seven years Dan’s asked me the same question ‘how was your day?’

And every day for the last week and a bit, my answer has been truthful, instinctive and unfaltering.

‘Lecker. Absolutely bloody lecker.’

 

The first U-Bahn

Our rooftop apartment is metres away from the U-Bahn stop. It means we can go from sitting on the sofa to sitting on the train within less than a minute. It also means that when the first U-Bahn of the day rattle-hums past, I can hear it from bed. At 5am in the morning, it wakes me up.

I don’t mind. I’m sleeping very lightly here anyway. I’m still getting used to sharing a bed with another human.

I’ve often been a passenger on the last train home. With a high thirst for night-time adventures and a low figure in my bank account, I’m always coming home from London or Manchester at midnight.

Fond is perhaps too strong but I’m accustomed and comfortable among people who have shirts stained with sweat, who have swapped high heels for dirty heels in pursuit of comfort, and where the carriage smells of alcohol and thickness and drowsiness.

It’s the U-Bahn that wakes me up, but as with a lot of things, it’s my imagination that keeps me up.

There’s something about those renewed-by-dawn carriages and their occupants – knowing they’re there, knowing their day has begun, while I’m still warm and only half conscious, that makes me feel something.

The apartment is my safe place here. Particularly bed.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never had the inclination to designate a safe place before, (I’ve started getting a little bit of anxiety exploring Stuttgart with my poor language skills, and returning to the apartment always feels like a small achievement).

I don’t know if I’m explaining this in the right way (but then I don’t quite know what I’m trying to explain either).

In a place and a time that feels right (living with Dan, figuring out my next move), yet still feeling anxiety (what is my next move? Where is it? Oh my god my German is so bad); that 5am train meters away from me pressed up against my best friend, our summer duvet, sweet from the smell of vanilla and lilac fabric softener, is so close, but so far, and in every sense of the word, so foreign.

Today’s Germany has started. And I’ve missed the train.

That frightens and inspires me.

I’m reading lots. This morning I read a character saying to her daughter that to beat fear, you must walk slowly and steadily towards what scares you. That resonated with me because it sounds wonderful, but even more so because after some thought, I realised I had been agreeing with it and living by it since I’ve been here.

My future scares me, so every day I walk slowly and steadily towards the next one.

Not knowing the language scares me, so I walk slowly and steadily into conversation with locals.

It scares me that it’s so hard to make it as an author, and that perhaps my dreams now and always have been too big, but every day I look my dream straight in the face and I just keep typing.

And one day (if it’s not tomorrow, it’s not tomorrow), I’ll leave bed at 4.59am and jump on that first U-Bahn with bed hair, sleep still in my eyes, and my laptop under my arm.