Don‘t ever let me use your cleaning tools. (Unless you want them covered in paint, of course.)

I got my first set of acrylic paint when I was 11 or 12. My grandma is a difficult woman, and our relationship is basically non-existent these days, but back then things were different, and one day she arrived with a bag full of arts supplies – soft pastels, little tubes of acrylic paint, heavy artist paper, a canvas and a wooden palette, all for me. This was almost as good as being allowed to choose whichever books I wanted in our local bookstore.

Apart from one workshop at school a few years ago, I had never used acrylic paint before, and I was terribly excited to change that. I remember looking at the blank canvas and getting a lot of old newspaper to cover and protect our kitchen table, and I remember suddenly thinking: What if I do something wrong? What if I waste the canvas and the expensive paint? What if the result looks ugly, awful, horrible? And as easy as that, my joy and excitement made place for self-doubt and worry.

It was stupid, really, but I just couldn’t get myself to use the canvas. I told myself that I’d use it for something special. More than 10 years later, that canvas is still in my room, as blank and white and ready as on that day. The paint is gone, though – it ended up on paper, birthday cards and all over my hands.

Last Christmas, my parents got me a new set of acrylic paint. This time, I didn’t hesitate: I started mixing colours and spreading them on paper with brushes, fingers, wooden sticks, pieces of plastic and even a squeegee without ever worrying – I didn’t think about results, the only thing that mattered was the process. Interestingly, the paintings actually turned out better than expected, and much better than the stuff I had produced years ago. Not thinking, not worrying, not aiming for anything but having fun might just be the right way for me, it seems.

I’ve finally realised that it’s okay if things don’t turn out perfect, and that neither the paint nor the canvas are any use if they are stored in a safe place for forever. I didn’t get these things to let them rot away somewhere, and I didn’t get them to become the next Picasso or Van Gogh – I got them to have fun.

And that’s why I’ll dig out that old canvas today and cover it in the brightest, weirdest colours I can imagine.



I Don’t Hate You Anymore

I’ve never liked audiobooks. A book should be read, not listened to, and the only acceptable exceptions to that rule are public readings by the author and people reading to their children or other loved-ones.

When I was 9 or 10, I was given Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone as an audiobook, and not even my deep love for The Boy Who Lived could make me listen to it for longer than half an hour: I’d rather read it myself, at my own – usually much faster – pace, with the comforting weight of the hardback in my hands.

And that hasn’t changed. Not a bit.

A while ago, however, I found myself in a desperate situation and decided it was time for another try. Not because I wanted to, no – I had to. Otherwise I’d probably have fallen asleep on my desk at work.

My work day mostly consisted of the kind of easy, boring, useless tasks you don’t really need a brain for, meaning that I’d spend approximately 9 hours a day doing nothing useful or worthwhile at all. After a few weeks, I realised that I had to change this: I had to add some value to these otherwise completely wasted hours. And since sitting there and reading instead of working was no option, I figured that reading while working might work – and listening to a book would enable me to do that without a) attracting attention and b) keeping me from doing my tasks. A perfect solution. (Ignoring my rather deep aversion to audiobooks, of course.)

And, to my big surprise, it actually worked. Even though I found most of the narrators’ voices annoying, they weren’t annoying enough to make me want to hit the stop-button. The audiobooks made work a lot more entertaining and gave my mind something to focus on whenever it was in danger of wandering off to too weird and faraway places or to get lost in an ocean of boredom. I even felt better after work – as if I had actually done something for myself during the day, even if it was just listening to a more or less irritating voice narrating a more or less gripping story.

I guess it’s time to say goodbye to my aversion, then. Dear audiobooks, I’m still not a fan, but I definitely don’t hate you anymore.

Confessions of a bookaholic


I can’t believe it’s already February.

Whoever said that time flies, they were wrong. Time’s not flying. It’s moving at a speed that simply shouldn’t be possible. And it feels as if I’m too slow for it all sometimes.

I’ve wanted to post something new on here for weeks, but life hasn’t really given me a break until now – or rather, whenever it did give me a break, I decided to use it for something other than blogging.

99,9% of the time, this “something other” turned out to be reading.

I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned that I am slightly obsessed with books. I love reading books and having them around me. I like to feel the book in my hands, to smell the paper and the ink, to have walls full of stories. Leave me in a bookshop and I’ll spend a happy day in there without ever missing you. Invite me to your home and I will subtly search it for bookshelves or hidden book piles – and you might have to face a few uncomfortable questions if there are none to be discovered (because only monsters have zero books). If I can locate books, I’ll analyse your character based on the titles, authors, genres and – very important – the condition of the books.

But I don’t want you to think I’m crazy, so I’ll probably better stop now.

Anyway, I think I might have found a remedy to the problem of me not finding (or taking) the time to post new things on here: I’ll write about the books I’m reading!

Great, right?

Well, maybe not. Maybe yes. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. But it’s worth a try – and I’m actually quite looking forward to ranting about my favourite reads on here.

I’m back


I’ve been away for quite a while. Not that I think anybody noticed. But still. Things have been weird and messy. Eventful, always. Fun, mostly. Sad, sometimes. Boring, never.

I could have written about so many things. Like, visiting Scotland for the first time. Walking through Chatsworth House looking for Mr Darcy and the sculptures from Pride & Prejudice (2005). Strolling through Bristol on the hunt for Banksy works and ending up having cider on a boat. Falling in love with London a little bit more with every visit. Pretending to be a student in Cambridge for just a day. Screaming and singing and sweating at concerts and festivals. Meeting the most amazing people. Saying goodbye to England. Reading too many books to list them now. Working on the final project for my MA. (I guess that was the main reason why I stopped posting regularly for a while – that took up a LOT of time, energy, passion and whatever else I had to give.) Finishing that project. Feeling a little lost once it was done. Moving to Hamburg. Starting an internship in Hamburg. Feeling welcome in Hamburg. Making friends in Hamburg. Feeling lost in Hamburg. Being in Hamburg, liking Hamburg, missing England. Talking German and thinking English. Not knowing where I belong. Not even knowing where I want to belong.

And that’s just a few of the things that have happened and have been occupying my mind lately.

Maybe I’ll write about some of that in the next weeks. Maybe I’ll write about something completely different. But I’ll write, I promise.

A Head Full of Trees

wood-nature-walking-darkI sometimes wonder why I – priding myself to be an emancipated young woman – am so attracted to fairy tales (sexism and gender stereotyping, anyone?).

Maybe it’s the atmosphere of wonder and magic. Maybe it’s the illusion that anything – absolutely anything – is possible. Or maybe it’s just the presence of mysterious, dark forests full of ancient trees, strange beasts and deadly secrets.

Oh, I bloody love these forests. So much that when I dream, this funny space inside my head is covered in trees sometimes: I hear the rustling leaves, the whispering twigs, the wings of ravens and owls and whatever else might be hiding in there. I smell the earthy, green wilderness and feel the presence of thousands of eyes in there, making the whole forest seem like one big breathing entity more alive and much wiser than anything else on this planet.

And I wish I could be there for real, not just in my head.

Forests fire up my imagination unlike anything else. Somehow, this seems to be the case for most people, and it’s probably why they go together so well with fairy tales: Just try to imagine Little Red Riding Hood getting lost in a sweltering swamp or Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs on a sunny beach – the stories just wouldn’t be the same.

Not surprisingly, fairy tale forests are frequently interpreted to symbolise the human unconscious: both are mysterious places inhabited by beasts and secrets, and just like fairy tale heroines have to face what is hidden in the shadows of the trees, we have to come to terms with the beasts buried deep inside us – our fears, our desires, our dreams.

I should probably spend more time trying to find and tame the creatures inside me, but dreaming of unicorns and werewolves just seems a lot more fun.

Screw the Prince

prince-and-princess-1473275137lbzFairy tales let me fall in love with storytelling way before I could read or write a single word. Little Red Riding Hood, Briar Rose and Hansel and Gretel have been my friends long before I had real friends, and I remember only too well begging my mum to read me just one more story before it was time to sleep.

Looking at fairy tales now, as a grown-up (at least according to my ID) and a feminist, they appear very different to me. They’re no longer the innocent stories I remember. Yes, they promote perfectly innocent values: virtue, bravery, kindness. But also heteronormativity and sexism.

I should have seen that all along, but of course, you only see what your eyes have been opened to. As a little girl, you hardly ever question why every female’s goal is to marry a prince they’ve never met, why every ambitious woman is a cruel witch or a spinster, why it’s usually the men who go on adventures and save the world.

A study from 1990 shows just how much this gender stereotyping influences children: when 2.500 pupils were asked to write their own fairy tales based on a given introduction, almost all chose a female protagonist if the first line indicated victimization and oppression; if the sentence promised adventure and autonomy, on the other hand, they chose a male protagonist.

Sure, fairy tales can have a positive effect on children: they boost their imagination, show them how to tell right from wrong, and teach them that life isn’t always easy or fair.

But if we don’t address the underlying sexism and stereotyping, they believe that’s normal – just look at all the girls still thinking it’s enough to be beautiful and to wait for a prince to come along and save them.

Screw the princes, ladies. Be brave and save yourself.

An Austrian in England

England and Austria are less than 2 flight hours away. 2 hours isn’t much. How different can 2 countries this close actually be? Vastly different. For all I know they could be on different continents.

Obviously, the first big difference is the language. This is not dramatic, though: I’m used to that. I’ve had so many English lessons in my life that I almost feel more comfortable with English than with standard German, so no issues here.

The more important difference is the traffic. The damned hell-yes-we’ll-just-drive-on-the-wrong-side traffic that almost killed me on my first day here. No joke. If my flatmate hadn’t pulled me back, I’d now be a rather pitiable red stain on Lincoln High Street. The good thing about this near-death experience: I definitely learned my lesson.

And then there’s all the other, smaller things: The different sockets. The weird food (pizza with chicken tikka, anyone? Or rather Toad in a Hole?). The habit of putting milk in your tea. The weird coin system. The abundance of pubs (there’s even one on campus!). The cashiers in supermarkets calling you ‘my love’. The train system with different fares depending not only on the time you want to travel but also on the time you book the ticket (that almost makes me think fondly of the ÖBB, the national railway company in Austria – yes, they like to be late, and yes, they can be quite expensive, but at least the fares are standardised).

It’s a lot to get used to. Now, after almost 4 weeks here, it all already seems a little less strange. I feel a little less strange. In a couple of weeks, it will all feel totally normal.