Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year

Right, this is the last day I'm working in the bookshop this year. Hurrah! There is just one small detail to be considered: I am working in the bookshop on the first day of the NEW YEAR. Now then. Somewhere in there is a mistake. I've been having this "about to finish everything, hoooolidaaayyy"-feeling recently, but am beginning to realize that it is a trick of the mind, much like an optical illusion. When I'm looking at the new year, it seems very distant, like there is a long strech of time between old and new. Clearly, I've been looking through a set of goggles (maybe fluid goggles? The one time I put Rob King's on, all I saw was rainbows) that are creating a pleasant, but nevertheless unreal, distortion. Not only am I working tomorrow, but it will be a very hard day. A new window day. It's worse than usual this time, since I have no idea what to do, and am still hoping that inspiration will come to me sometime in the night. Maybe I should put a sign up now, saying: "stay away from Anna tomorrow, everyone, she'll be in a foul mood, grumbling and cursing all day". I'll report on the state of window soon.

Meanwhile, I've had a night out with Stavros and Panagiota, the organizers of the mediterranean freediving meeting. They are in Berlin so Stavros can see what cold weather really looks like. Since they got here, it has been snowing in Athens. We spent the evening talking freediving, which reminded me that I have not trained since November. Stavros asked me if I did lungstreches. Answer: No. Did I know lungstreches? Answer: No. He has threatened to to teach me a routine, so it looks like I might have to have a new year's resolution and actually start working to become a better freediver. Maybe my lungvolume will grow from tiny to normal now?

Today I have a hangover, I accidentally celebrated new year with a lot of white wine last night. I have no watch at the moment, they all broke one after the other, so my excuse is I had no idea it was 2:30am when I left. I'm also sure the barman just kept filling up my glass when I wasn't looking.

Ok, here goes: New Year's Resolutions.

1. Lungstreches every morning
2. Train static (ugh)
3. Watch the white wine
4. Keep an eye on those barmen
5. Get off the two-buiscuit-one-coffee breakfast routine
6. Be nice to customers always
7. Throw the horrible customers out
8. Plan windows in advance
9. Empty the hoover bag

Anything else? Don't think so. Oh yes: improve in my new addiction sport, rock climbing. I have decided that rock climbing must be fantastic training for us freedivers. Somehow it's much easier to get to the climbing center than to the pool. I am looking at it as a type of mental training. It has to be. Right?

Four pm. Time to close the door quickly before any more people come in. Have a great New Year everyone.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Yellow fish...

Phew. I am back in the bookshop, more or less paint-free, although I keep finding yellow spots here and there, I guess it will only be a matter of a few weeks until they all come off.

Six freedivers got up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 on Monday morning, to be transfromed into fish by a bunch of crazy (but amazing) bodypainters. One would have thought that five hours would be enough, but as the artists told me, they always use up all the time they have and barely finish. I guess they never heard of such a thing as 'official top'.

Anyway. Here we were, all a bit sleepy, in a pool in Berlin. First of all, we all got to strip down to a pair of invisible knickers. The guys had the added pleasure of having to shave their hairy chests, and legs, too - I have to say, both Ulli and Martin looked a bit strange. Since all women are hairless by nature, we had no such problems. The only issue I had was that my wonderful painter, Matthias von Matuschka(check out his work on was in charge of the artist's team, and therefore busy sorting out all manner of problems rather than painting me. Since everyone else was starting to look a bit colourful (mostly Elisabeth Kristofferson who made a lovely whaleshark) while I was still sitting around in my undies, this got me a little twitchy, especially since we didn't even know what fish I was going to be. Other fish were: a whaleshark, an orca, a lionfish, a clownfish and a turtle.

When Matthias finally got round to switching on his airbrush, it quickly transpired that I was going to be a bright yellow fish. That is all I knew until I ran out from under his brush at four minutes to official top. He was still trying to paint my hands at this point, wich wasn't very successful since it did not dry and came off as soon as I hit the water. Oh well, the rest stayed on more or less. Acting the fish was a rather strange experience, especially when I didn't even know what I looked like. I got pretty tangled up in the net, which made Martin Müller and his safety crew pretty nervous. We were thinking: if one of us gets properly caught and needs to be rescued, that will make the headlines for sure. Still, this did not seem to be the way the WWF wanted to go, so we behaved ourselves and stuck with acting the drama.

A drama it is: apparently, 1 million tons of fish per year are discarded as unwanted bycatch in the north sea alone. Whales, turtles, dolphins drown in the nets every minute. For anyone who spends as much time in the water as we divers do, this is a horrible thought. I had no idea it was that bad. The WWF publishes a list of the fish they consider ok to eat and the ones we should boycott. Check it out before you buy fish in the future.

I finally saw what a funky yellow reef fish I was when I went into the shower to wash off the paint. This was a major mission, it took us well over an hour of scrubbing with the green, scratchy side of a washing-up sponge to get most of it off. I think I have removed the top layers of skin along with the colour. I got so caught up in scrubbing everything, that I was peering over my shoulder and could just see that there was something there - all my efforts did not seem to get it off. Then I realized it was my tattoo.

You can see a short video of the whole thing on

Now it's back to trying to do pooltraining, which is still not happening. Eindhoven is in a couple of weeks. Oh dear.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Back in Berlin

I am back in Berlin, looking after my much neglected bookshop. Once again the 'super-simple' window decoration I had in mind turned out to be a three day project, during which time I turn into Miss Grumpy and it is best if no one speaks to me. The result is attracting customers though. The ones I have chased off during those three days may dare to come back eventually, too. I hope.

Anyway, so here I am behind my 'Nobel-Prize' window, looking at the rain. I was about to complain about the wheather but have realized that I have revoked the right to do so when it came to me that I have spent 12 weeks freediving in hot places this summer. I guess I have used up my entire share of sun for one year, and am now condemned to darkness until January 1. Too bad for the rest of the people in Berlin.

After having lots of fun diving deep, with some new German records and a PB in constant weight (finally hit 60m, hurrah!) I am now supposed to train in the pool for the upcoming competition in Eindhoven. I am beginning to be convinced that pooltraining has been jinxed for me - whenever I want to go, something happens and I can't get out of work, or have to travel somewhere or similar. How to improve? Maybe start monofinning in my bathtub...thoughts?


Meanwhile, I managed to get to the pool at Down Under in Berlin yesterday. Thomas Schaal's dive center has a 4m deep private pool on the premesis which they kindly let us use to do some tests for a WWF event I am involved in. As divers, we naturally want to support the world wildlife fund in it's efforts to protect the underwater world. They have a new project: to highlight the problems with unwanted catch (bycatch) in commercial fishing, which plays a big part in the depletion of many endangered species. Next Monday the campaign kicks off with a press conference/ media event at a pool here in Berlin: six freedivers get turned into seacreatures by bodypainting artists and are caught in a net, which the press can see/photograph through an underwater window.

In answer to the question what kind of a seacreature I might be turned into, my charming friends suggested things such as dugong, seahorse and some kind of worm dwelling in the tideflats. Lovely. Anyway, two artists came to test which paint might stay on in the chlorine infested waters of a public pool and which might not - they painted me with all kinds of samples. I looked vaguely like a whaleshark, or maybe like the man from mars. Most of the paint stayed on. When I say 'stayed on', I mean it. Don't think that stuff that survives the pool chemicals just comes off with soap. Bits of me are still green and I have resigned myself to looking more the part of the fish-woman (apparently a mermaid is not an endangered species - damn)than ever for the time being. Watch the news on Monday and see me play the part of a huge whale.