I found myself, due to unexplainable circumstances, once again in Berlin.
It was October and as one does, I was having an identity crisis in the Taxi, as one does in Berlin, in October. The driver asked me where I wanted to go and who I was, to which the only answer I could give with any certainty was my membership card, apparently it has my name written on the front and states that for some reason I belong to an “über cool” crowd somewhere in the East of Berlin.
The driver drops me off at the entrance of the Soho House´s private members’ club, a 1928 restored building, larger than that of the Queen´s palace. Yes, I insist on you believing it!
With a plum colour umbrella I make my way into the club where to my surprise I find I have regained all sense of identity in the lobby. (I always tend to regain consciousness and personality in lobbies, and this one in particular was to my satisfaction.)
There is a magical sadness to the construction of the building, raw concrete walls and columns left bare, left timeless, with falling chandeliers in the shape of a crown not yet placed.
I wait on velvet sofas, meditate on the modern art of Damien Hirst, and very suspiciously I cast glances at the ensemble of Berlin´s finest entourage. It is a gathering of entrepreneurs who have replaced tweed with denim, and sparkling muses. Here men of Wall Street and courtrooms are not welcomed, leaving scientists to look for diamonds on Neptune. Soho House prefers the writers with writers block, and quite rightly the likes of myself. (I touch my membership card for reassurance.)
How exciting to see the anatomy of Berlin´s youth all in the lobby of a building that was once the headquarters of Hitler´s youth. The irony is delicious.
I was very much a vagabond with the language, and managed to cause quite a stir when ordering my room, which I insisted be neither too small, nor too large, but just right (preferably one with a vintage gramophone and a variety of LPs.). As you know Mother, I suffer terribly from insomnia, and being a building en face the graveyard I cant say it was going to help, so the kind lady forgave my tantrum and suggested an oil massage in the Cowshed Spa. I forgave the kind lady who never thought to mention the naked German men I was to encounter.
Oh Mother I do say in the future when I shall dream of Berlin, it will always take place in this building, preferably in the bathtub that stands grand at the foot of my bed, and if not there then on the seventh floor where my socks will never match the interior decoration, and my wallet will always be short of a pound for the drinks – but I will doze by the chimney, strategize my chess moves, and be threatened only by the encyclopaedia in the library.
Following the connoisseurs of fine dining to the House Kitchen, I order a cheeseburger that comes highly recommended by waiters far too good-looking to be trusted.
Being a Sunday the discussion on the 7th floor is focused on politics, fashion, a funeral, and the newest art galleries in the East. I on the other hand play a round of backgammon with a man who speaks no English.
The clubroom is a stage where one enjoys the show vertically between modern art and jade colour sofas, between escaping social deformities in the bathroom, and your alter ego in the mirror.
I toast to Susie Atkinson, the interior designer, whom, Mother, I dare say would do a fine job with our living room. Please look her up in the yellow pages.
For a civilized drink and a raspberry crumble I move to the roof where most of the crowd has migrated under evening blankets on striped sun loungers, to smoke by the emerald pool made of volcanic stone, or to read Die Bild for news on Syria and Karl Lagerfeld.
Such opulence, such a splendid view over Berlin´s horizon and all with my feet touching the same concrete that stood for years through the history of Berlin. I dare say I stand on the reincarnation of a building, and feel myself rather important until I am asked to leave the roof because of my tie. It will amuse you to know that it is strictly forbidden, verboten, to wear a tie, to converse on the telephone, and to photograph. I muttered an apology, entschuldigung ja ja, and descend to my room to change into a very comfortable bathrobe.
Mother, you always raised me to be admired, therefore though it is easy to be accepted without a tie, it is cleverer with a bathrobe. And so it was in this attire that your son once again entered the club to finish his round of backgammon with the same non-English speaking gentleman.
It was getting on in the night and uncertain whether to watch a tragedy in the cinema below or inquire more on the famous Polite Büro, (a room which served as seat for the German Communist party in 1945 when the Soviets took it from the Nazis) I decided to write to you, dear Mother. Yes the world is moving at a very fine and fast rate, and to keep up with all the uprising of miraculous places is exhausting, I rather say I will retire soon.
One last thing before I say my goodbyes: I overheard the conversation between a gentlemen and his son, and happened on the word Torschlusspanik. It struck me a rather odd and romantic word, when I asked the elder man to be so kind as to translate, he smiled and shook his head explaining that, “This is a German word that cannot be translated into your language,” and turned his attention back to his son. Before bed I spend the final of Sunday´s moments in the basement library, and to my contentment I found a dictionary translation, which stated that, literally, this word meant “gate-closing panic,” but the Contextual meaning referred to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.”
A word I thought rather ironic for this building on Torstrasse 1. In 1989 the Wall fell, and though vacant for 12 years the building remained standing. It would never grow too old for the opportunities that human beings shed on her, this Bauhaus outlived them all; department stores, the Nazis and the Communists. Perhaps one day also the beautiful inhabitants of Soho House, but that is far into the future, for now she looks rather splendid in this attire, yes, it suited her quite well. Mother, Berlin is no longer the city you remembered and told me of, the war is long gone and now the neurosis has been cured by the youth, the artists, the visionaries of our generation.
Good night mother,
P.S. I do hope you find it in you to fetch me from St Pancreas, I just cannot bare another taxi ride in October.
Words by Divya Zeiss