Picking herbs with a bunch of strangers on an island

Last Friday I had one of those days you think feature only in fairytales.

I set off from home with a wicker basket, wandered through a forest, took a boat to an island and spent  the day picking herbs with strangers in their fifties (my preferred demographic). Then we made nettle soup and a giant bucket of pesto, which I took home in the empty glass jar our course instructor had advised us to bring along.

There were no big bad wolves but there were apparently two families of wild boars residing on the island.

All the humans were lovely, which makes sense given that they’d elected to spend their time picking herbs and making pesto.

Altogether it was an idyllic day and exactly what I’d needed after some stressful days at work.

For curious Berliners, the island’s located on Tegeler See and the one-day herb-picking course was offered by the Berliner Volkshochschule. Right now, I’m trying to decide on my next one. It’s a close contest between acorn-picking and apple-ring roasting. If my hectic work schudule allows, I’ll simply do both.

For international readers, random Internet visitors and my loyal blog troll, here’s what the island of Scharfenberg looks like:

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Frau Bienkowski breaks her leg

Last Saturday, I took some visiting friends to the Grunewald forest. After enjoying a lakeside picnic, we made our way up Teufelsberg hill, where we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the city.

I decided to call Frau B from the top of the hill. I wanted to describe the view but I was also keen to share some good news. My friends had got engaged the day before. Knowing what a fan Frau B is of romance and weddings, I knew she’d be happy to hear.

She answered after a couple of rings, indicating that she was in bed, rather than in her chair.

Attribution: Axel Mauruszat via Wiki Commons

Attribution: Axel Mauruszat via Wiki Commons

“How are you, Katechen?” she asked.

“Good,” I said, about to launch into a description of the view and my friends’ upcoming nuptials. “How are you?”

“I’ve been in hospital,” she said.

My stomach lurched. Frau B hates hospitals. She will go to significant lengths to conceal ailments in order to avoid going.

“I broke my leg,” she said.

“Oh no! When?”

“Last Thursday. In the corridor. I lost grip of my Zimmerframe and slipped. But I yelled and one of the carers came straight away.”

I arranged to come around the next day.20150322_111937[1]

When I arrived I found Frau B in her usual spot by the window. She was in her nightie, resting her leg on a stool.

She looked as radiant as ever.

“Hello, Katechen” she said. “Are you alone?”

“LSB will be here in a while. He’s getting you your strawberries.”

“Ach! How nice.”

I asked Frau B about her hospital experience.

“I was on a trolley for two hours!” she said. “There was a man who got seen before me just because his wife made a fuss.

“When I did get seen, the first thing they did was an XRay. The doctor told me it was a clean break. Since I have a hole in my other foot, I asked him whether he could arrange a wheelchair for me.Do you know what he said?”

Frau B was looking pleased.

“What?”

He said: ‘Not a hope! You’re still doing so well. If I stick you in a wheelchair now, you’ll never get out! You’re going to walk again. Bit by bit.”

“He’s right,” I said. “You’re only 96! Much too young for a wheelchair.”

Frau B laughed.

There was a knock on the door and LSB popped his head in.

“Andrew!” she said.

“Hallo!” said LSB, placing a punnet of strawberries on the table.

We filled Frau B in on our friends’ engagement.

“Everyone’s getting married except you two!” she said.

We explained our mutual lack of excitement at the prospect of rings, dresses and event planning.

But I did make one big promise.

“If we do get married,” I said. “You can be my bridesmaid.”