About Kate Katharina

Kate Katharina wltm people with stories for literary fling and maybe more.

November update

It’s been a busy few weeks. LSH and I had a wonderful belated honeymoon in Cuba, which I’ll definitely be writing about at some point. It’s such a beautiful, fascinating country and I can’t stop thinking about the people and places we encountered there.

I also began writing an economics column for Germany’s international broadcaster, DW. You can read the first two installments here and here.

And – most excitingly in a way – I went to the Irish embassy in Berlin to read a short story I’d written. It was such a wonderful feeling afterwards when people in the audience spoke to me about my characters as if they were real people.

 

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Looking for the truth? Go to the theatre.

Last night I went to a small Berlin theatre to see a one-woman play called Blonde Poison.

It’s about Stella Goldschlag, a German woman who collaborated with the Nazis to send hundreds, if not thousands of people to their deaths.

Using a poisonous cocktail of good looks and charm, she infiltrated hiding places and revealed them to the Gestapo.

Ferocious in her pursuit of victims, she was a dream come true for the Führer and his followers.

Blue-eyed and blonde, she epitomized the Aryan ideal.

Except for one thing.

She was Jewish.

Yes, you read that right.

Stella Goldschlag was a Jewish woman who embodied Nazi terror.

It’s an uncomfortable thing to write. Especially here in Germany, where the horrors inflicted on six million Jews are omnipresent – carved, literally, into the pavements and our consciousness.

The notion of a Jewish woman engineering the brutal deaths of her own people is something we might prefer not to think about.

Except, of course, that we must.

Because whether you consider her a monster, a victim of one, or something in between, Stella Goldschlag was a real person.

And real people do grotesque things. Most of the time, without considering themselves vile.

In the production I saw at the Brotfabrik, Stella Goldschlag is brilliantly portrayed by Dulcie Smart as an old woman waiting for a journalist to come and interview her.

As she paces nervously about the stage, counting down the minutes until she can put the coffee on, we witness an extraordinary pyschological range, which reveals not only the intelligence but also the empathy of the actress, who flits seamlessly from one state of heightened emotion to the next.

We see the girlish traces of vanity and vivaciousness and the suggestion of how they could have morphed into tools of treachery and deceit.

The flickers of innocence and pride as she recalls the way her father used to call her “Pünktchen” – and tell her she was destined to become a star.

We learn that Stella Goldschlag continued to betray Jews even after her parents were murdered at Auschwitz.

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Dulcie Smart as Stella Goldschlag Source: Brotfabrik

We watch in horror as her thoughts advance unrestrained.

She speaks of the mortification which must be experienced by those who get spinach stuck in their teeth. To tell them or not to? That is the question.

She is proud of her clean, white smile and examines it frequently in the mirror.

Her anti-Semitism is expressed in the disgust she has for the hooked noses and black hair of her fellow Jews.

Is she mad or bad or both, we wonder.

A victim or an engine of a totalitarian regime?

You will leave the theatre with an unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Embrace it.

It’s the sting of a painful truth.

Despite our enormous appetite for it, there is no such thing as a single story.

No one embodiment of monstrosity.

No defined point at which democracy erodes.

No real wisdom that can fit into 142 characters or less.

We may be closer to the truth in the theatre than on Twitter.

But even then, the sign of a good production is one that reminds us that in a functioning democracy, the absolute truth is allowed to elude us.

Did Brett Kavanaugh really brush his teeth?

There’s a gaping omission in Brett Kavanaugh’s June 1982 calendar.

To his credit, he had the courage to address it during his lengthy testimony.

Some have noticed that I didn’t have church on Sundays on my calendars. I also didn’t list brushing my teeth. And for me, going to church on Sundays was like brushing my teeth, automatic. It still is.

Hmm.

I really want to believe this is true.

But if Kavanaugh really has been brushing his teeth every Sunday, why is he only reporting it now?

And if his dental record truly is so stellar, how come no one can recall it?

I mean sure, other people have recently come forward with their own stories of weekly dental care. But such a last-minute onslaught of claims does not ring true.

I’m not questioning that Kavanaugh’s teeth may have been brushed by some person in some place at some time. But does that prove that he’s truly innocent of the charge of poor, or at least, irregular dental hygiene?

Let me be clear. I intend no ill will to Mr Kavanaugh or his family. In fact, the other night, as I was saying my prayers, a pious child I know said, “We should pray for that man.”

That’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old, who went on to suggest that we should simply believe that Mr Kavanaugh brushed his teeth every Sunday. Because why would he lie about it?

And I have to admit that only a heart of stone could fail to be moved by the text message Kavanaugh’s friend, a self-described liberal and feminist, sent him the night before his testimony:

“Deep fresh, minty breaths. You’re a good man, a good man, a good man.”

After listening to the emotional testimonies from both sides, perhaps it’s best to follow the wisdom of Kavanaugh’s mother, herself a lawyer, who used to say:

“Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?”

Why would a man lie about brushing his teeth?

Why would he endure some of the hardest weeks of his life played out in front of the entire world?

Why would he open himself up to harassment and death threats?

Why would he allow himself to be called the most vile and hateful names imaginable?

To be rocked to the core by a wave of hatred sweeping across the country?

Maybe, just maybe, the only thing worth such torture is the truth.

But don’t take my word for it. Let Kavanaugh himself present the closing argument:

You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to spit. Never.

Kate Katharina WLTM …

Tree-loving, anxiety-riddled Irishwoman, GSOH, seeks literary fling with stranger on the Internet. Specifically, to read first 20,000 words of her novel and discuss if desired.

Ideal respondent is dispassionate enough to crush dreams if necessary but with no vested interest in doing so. Trolls (though the most loyal of all readers) need not apply.

Detailed feedback not required, and novel relationship may be terminated with no hard feelings. Long-term literary relationship not ruled out, as long as LSH approves.

And now in plain English:

Writing a novel is torturous! I’ve no idea if what I’ve done is any good at all. But you might! If you’re one of the lovely people who’ve been reading and commenting on my blog over the last few years and feel like you’d like to get your literary teeth into something rough and ready, please let me know! You can e-mail or tweet me. Send a pigeon if you will!

Also, if you enjoyed reading about Frau B, you might find it interesting. It’s not about her (I promise!) but it’s set in a nursing home. I can’t guarantee anything but I hope one or two bits might make you smile.

I don’t need any fancy literary criticism. I’d just like an honest answer to the questions: Did you like it? Hate it? Something in between? And: would you read on? If you can also say why, then we could be literary friends for life!

Also: the reason I’m looking for strangers is because friends are too nice. They say kind things because they know the truth might make you throw away your quill or close over your laptop forever in despair.

 

How building a kebab empire has changed my life

Some people spend their free time mastering new skills: Swahili; the piano; embroidery. You know the type.

I play a game on my phone called ‘Kebab World.’ It’s taught me more than any of the above ever could.

In Kebab World, you’re in charge of a fast food joint. And when I say fast, I mean it. Especially as you advance through the levels.

It’s a one-woman operation. You’re in charge of cooking the chicken, preparing the salad and maintaining the drinks machine. And of course, keeping the customer satisfied.

It can get pretty stressful! But it’s in times of adversity you learn the most. Having made it all the way to level 27, I’ve acquired a fair few life lessons along the way. Apply the following hard-won tips to your own life for a happier, healthier you:

You can’t please everyone! Sometimes, when my kebab joint gets really busy, the customers begin to sulk. Their expressions become dour, and – sometimes if you’re not quick enough – they walk out before you’ve finished preparing their order. Of course you don’t want that to happen! But if you’re doing your best, don’t sweat it. Focus on pleasing the customers who still have smiles on their faces. You’ll make your losses back in tips.

kebabs

Cut your losses! If you mess up an order, don’t hold onto it in case the next customer wants your messed-up meal. Assume no one will. Bin it and move on.

Invest in yourself! If – like me – you are naturally frugal, this may be the most important lesson you learn. As you make money in your kebab shop, you’re given the option of upgrading your operation. You can buy a new Ayran dispenser, or invest in an additional grill. You can even buy larger quantities of parsley to give your kebabs a healthy twist. Do it! As well as enabling you to work faster and more efficiently, the upgrades will keep your customers intrigued. Meaning more tips, and more money to invest in exciting things like additional serving space.

Rest and recharge! Sometimes, when I’m on the U Bahn home from work, I subject myself to a second shift at the Kebab joint. This is rarely a good idea. Without a clear head, it’s impossible to make smart business decisions and offer service with a smile. Double-jobbing is a no-no. Go to work well-rested and motivated, and before long, you too could find yourself in command of a kebab empire.

The festival that won my heart

There is something in the air in Listowel. For me, it was the smell of wild garlic and the way the leaves hanging over the River Feale caught the light.

The tiny town located in Ireland’s South-West has a population of under 5000. But it has produced John B Keane, Brendan Kennelly, Bryan MacMahon and a host of other women and men of literary as well as musical note. The writers’ festival was a glorious excuse for a reunion with two schoolfriends.

On the first morning, we took a walking tour. Our guide – a spirited and brilliant man of advanced age (the son, incidentally of the late Bryan MacMahon) – brought us to the Garden of Europe. The grounds, dating back to 1995, feature a monument to John B Keane, as well as Ireland’s only Holocaust memorial.

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Morning’s walk in Listowel

Gesturing to the impeccably-kept lawns behind him, the guide said: “This used to be a dump. A place you’d come to shoot rats.”

It didn’t matter if it was true or not. It was about the twinkle in his eye and the implication that the town had stayed humble.

The line between fact and fiction is appropriately slippery in Listowel, where the truth lies between the lines. Perhaps this is the reason that so many of the writers who came said it was their favorite literary festival, by far.

Or perhaps they like it so much because it is a place where they are allowed to exalt the ordinary. During a tea party hosted by none other than Colm Tóibín, he described a conversation he had recently overheard between an older person and a staff member in a Vodafone store.

“Now, I don’t want to send texts. But I want to receive them. Now, if I just turn it off, it can’t do anything, can it?  It won’t ring, will it?”  The utter terror of technology, Tóibín said. He wants to put it in a story.

For me, the days in Listowel were characterized not by terror but by awe. There was the surreal moment at a panel discussion when I recognized the shape of Margaret Drabble’s head in front of me. Later she turned around, and the man beside her (my former English teacher, who would be interviewing her later) introduced us. “I taught them very little,” he said, typically self-effacing. “Well you instilled a love of reading if they’re here,” she said, not missing a beat.

I sat beside the extraordinary artist Pauline Bewick during another event. She had a notebook open on her lap, full of striking, colorful sketches. Beside her was her daughter Poppy, herself an artist who, unlike her mother, works slowly and produces work that is startlingly life-like. They were a beautiful pair, gazelle-like, other-worldly and unassuming despite their huge success. I told Pauline about how our English teacher had inspired us to love literature. “You know that leaves me with a lump in my throat,” she said. “It really does.”

Another highlight was the poet Colette Bryce, who – to my shame – I’d never heard of. A Derry-born wordsmith, there was something about the gentle strength with which she read that lured me in. I bought her selected poems and was giddily excited when she looked up after signing it and said in a Northern lilt: “Thanks for coming, Kate.”

Edna O’Brien, of course packed the room out. I couldn’t even see her from where I was sitting. But I could hear her distinctive voice, and felt its warmth. “Enchantment is the novel’s most important quality,” she said. “It’s what matters most.” A literary titan whose work Ireland once banned, she would know.

On our last night, we went to see Forgotten, a one-man show written and sublimely performed by Pat Kinevane. It took place in St Johns, a church on the town’s main square converted into a theatre.

My friend, himself a playwright, was seeing it for the second time. It was an intense, exhausting, brilliant performance. When it was over and we filed out of the church, the sun had gone down and the last of the light stretched across the sky.

I noticed my friend had a certain glow about him; a kind of exaltation was written across his face. “This is what good theatre can do,” he said as we waited for the 11 o’clock bus back to Killarney. “It’s what Edna O’Brien was taking about,” he said. “A piece of art can enchant.”

 

Dear Meghan

Congratulations and commiserations!

I mean it. And please, before you mark as spam, let me explain.

I’m delighted for you and Harry! You seem like lovely people and I think you’ll make each other supremely happy. With your generous spirit and his understated sincerity, you are perfectly paired to advance the good causes you both believe in. I think the world will be a better place for your union.

But my God, I’m sorry for all the fuss!

I got married last year and I cannot imagine what it would have been like to order a latte and find LSB and me staring back at me in the froth! Or to log on to the BBC website only to find an aerial map informing the world of the locations of our ceremony, reception and after-party. Not to mention having a special edition of marmite dedicated to our nuptials.

And then there are the people who have been camping on the streets draped in Union Jacks for days just so they can get a glimpse of your dress. I mean, I suppose it’s flattering in a way. But between you and me, it’s kind of creepy too, right?

I know you’re an actress, so you’re used to the limelight. But the strange thing about this role is that it’s public property and you don’t get to slip out of it when the credits roll.

As Britney can tell you, everyone will want a piece of you. And the more they get, the more fragmented you will become. I’m sorry in advance for the gross Paparazzi hounding, the continuous digging into your past, and the obsession with your body and the fabric you drape over it.

I read today that sales of a certain brand of sunglasses shot up by 1000% percent after you were spotted sporting them at the Invictus Games.

1000%. I mean, come on! Do people think a pair of tortoiseshell specs are going to increase their odds of marrying a prince?

You don’t need no Spider-Man to tell you that with great power comes great responsibility. You’ve more than proven that with your humanitarian work and the causes you choose to champion. You’re exactly the kind of pubic figure the world needs. But you’re also just a regular gal called Meghan Markle who should have the right to marry a nice lad without millions of uninvited guests streaming the event into their living rooms.

I know you must be dying to get to the end of this so you can do your mascara and practise your speech. But please, before I sign off, let me share with you the one piece of advice I wish I had got before my own wedding day.

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sharing: the biggest challenge of the day

Do not miss out on the cake! I mean it, you need to wolf it down! Do not dilly-dally pretending to be all polite like I did. My biggest wedding regret was not eating more than a sliver on the day. Take it from a married woman: nothing lasts forever. You might look at the perfectly iced masterpiece and think it’s for life. But before you know it, in the blink of an eye in fact, there’ll be nothing but lemon and elderflower crumbs left on the silver serving plate.

Amid all the madness, it’s important to cut to what really matters.

Best Wishes to you and Harry!

Lots of love,

Kate

(Kate Katharina. Not your sister-in-law. That would be a bit weird)

xxx