I should have known better or 62 days until the end of the year

I know. I should have really known that Halloween lurks around the corner. The window panes of the grocer’s wife are full of plastic skeletons, rubber witches and to my great disgust, she even put two rats with glowing red eyes in the middle of the bread basket, where normally the bake of the day is announced. On Tuesday when I bought milk and eggs, the grocer’s wife even wore a massive, black hat and I wouldn’t be surprised if she will jump on a broomstick by noon to do what people obviously  seem to do on Halloween. All neighbors have decorated their doorways with cobwebs made of toilet paper and wherever you step a silly pumpkin grins at you. I never smile back. My house is the only one in the street that bears no visible sight of this festive day, even when the grocer’s wife tries to convince me on a daily basis ( meaning she threatens to not make my beloved raspberry scones any longer ) but I am probably as stubborn as she is. So, I should have known. There is no excuse not to know that the Halloween obsession that rules this country is happening right now. I should have known better. Nevertheless I was quite surprised that I found myself on the train sitting next to a most silly looking mummy that was wrapped from head to toe into toilet paper, trying to fix whatever on his costume with water and baby powder. Of course I wear a black skirt and black thighs and black shoes and of course the mummy is messing around with the water and the baby power and of course spills the water, wets his toilet paper costume and of course, of course rubs frantically and when he gets off my skirt and thighs are covered in a sticky mixture of rags of wet toilet paper and oily baby powder. Hahaha, you might say, should have known its Halloween. I know. I know. At the next stop, one guy dressed up as a Superhero ( I am unable to get right, who is who in the Superhero circle ) with a plastic scythe gets on and while he tries to answer his phone, his scythe smashes down twice and hits me on the back. Sorry, the superhero mumbles and I mumble something else back, which is very far away from a friendly reply. But better be careful, I don’t want to meet my end on Halloween getting beheaded by a plastic scythe. Hehehehe, you might say: you should have known its Halloween. I know, I know. Two girls get the train. Their faces are covered in a mud-colored paste and I can’t even guess what they want to represent ( seaweed? a mudhole? ) but I shall learn very quickly. From two enormous bags, they pull out big pillows and with energy and force they push the pillows under their t-shirts. While doing so I get a few, wholehearted rib-kicks and another: sorry. I don’t even pretend to answer something. I just stare at them with eyes that resemble very well the red-colored eyes of the grocer’s wife rats. Then they wrap their massive pillow-pushed figures into mud colored coats. Now I at least can guess what their costumes might be. They are dressed up as turtles. Big, massive, mud-colored turtles. To make this even more ridiculous they add a red and a yellow headband and two water-pistols. They look unbelievable silly. Who knew that there are people on this planet, who think it a good idea to dress up as turtles. Their successful make-over they celebrate with two Coke cans, of course the train is moving and stopping and moving and with their massive pillow- battle shield in front of them, they lose grip of their cans and me and my already devastated skirt are covered in soda. I wish, I would have taken away the plastic scythe and I would have made use of it for sure, but unarmed as I am I just get off the train. Hihihihi, you might say: its Halloween you should have known. I know, I know as I stumble out of the station a clown with a face covered in artificial blood stumbles towards me. I stare at him, he stares at me. Then he decides to move on. Wise move, man, I think, wise move. When arriving, M. asks and she does it so innocently and sweet: “Trick or Treat, Read On, but I just growl as the grocer’s wife rats do when the tower bells strikes midnight and don’t want to hear another word about Halloween for another lifetime. I know, I should have known. I should have really known.

I wish I could…

I wish I could and I wish I would. I can’t and I won’t but if I would not be the boring person I am I just would grab your hand and drag you outside. My shoes I would kick off and your would follow so fast you would not even notice them lying in the grass. Your hands I would take into mine and slowly, slowly at first I would turn around with you. Underneath our feet would nothing else be than the yellow, orange and red leaves rustling and swishing slowly between our toes. Faster and faster we would sway till only our fingertips would touch each other, my hair would swing open and for a second or two I would close my eyes being totally convinced I could fly only high and higher till I reached the edge of the world and would forget the world, all covered in gray dust and rain. Faster and faster we would turn around on this late autumnal afternoon that is maybe the very last one where the sun shines and long, so long, a whole long winter we will have to wait for a day like this. A day that is made for singing and dancing, for silly jokes and for warm hands, and tingling feet getting lost on the ground. First the other people would just stand still, looking quietly till they would throw away their shoes and shame as well to join our hand and feet and the warm, sun shining upon all of us. Oh, if only I could and how I wish I would.

Whoever has ears, let them hear.

The sheep are gathering in the middle of street. In the village of mine there live many more sheep than men. The sheep here look proud and are very self-conscious. We are more humble and I am sure the sheep do not think much of us. When the sheep gather on the street, we wait patiently. Once, shortly after I moved here, a driver ( not from our village of course ) horned and the sheep did not move for hours, grinning at him bluntly. But sometimes when the sheep are in a good mood they form a circle and give a concert. A concert?, you might say and shake your head. But you hear quite right. It is not a too well known fact, but the sheep here form a formidable choir. Their conductor, the only black sheep in the flock supervises closely the set up of the stage. I know it has been known for a long time that a black sheep is the unwanted and not much liked cousin of the flock, but this could not be any more wrong. The black sheep, without exception splendid looking in their black suits form for centuries the conductors of the world-famous sheep orchestra you find from Ireland to Australia. Their dignified air and knowledge about the great pieces of sheep music make them experts of their very own kind. When the sheep all took in their position, the conductor sheep flicks twice with his left ear and unisono the concert is opened with the well- known hymn “Oh, praise all the fresh herbs” A marvelous piece, a waving chorus of strong sheep throats. The hymn having ten verses praises the lush valleys, the fat green meadows, the wisdom of the ancestor sheep and the mother country of all sheep: Ireland. Then  the solist, the famous Susanna Sheep-anova, who performed on meadows all over the world and was trained by the Russian soprano Ljudmila Sheep-akovic ( you are quite right to assume, that she is a far away cousin of the well-known composer Schostakovic.) Susanna now steps forward, the conductor again flicks his ear back and forward and then she masterfully performs the aria ” The wolf took our youngest” in c-minor. Truly a tear-moving piece that narrates in a most emotional way the century long struggle between the sheep and their attacker. Breathless we stand behind our open windows, clapping and trying to dry our misty eyes. Susanna Sheep-anova elegantly catches a bouquet of fresh clover thrown at her by own of her staunchest admirers. Even Queen Cat not too fond of sheep or music swings her tail in admiration. Now the not any less famous tenor Don Sheep-onso steps forward. Of Romanian origin, he has sung on the most important open air sheep music festivals between Bucharest and even performed a the Festival for Ancient Sheep Tunes in Bologna. His steps towards the middle of the street are powerful and elegant, the conductor has not even time enough to instruct the seagulls, playing the violins or to do his notorious ear-flick, when the strong, clear and crisp voice of the Don sets in with a masterful performance of ” Your sheepish eyes make me just wonder”, a dream-like floating piece, not unlike  Schubert’s song cycle, telling of a lost love and hope to see a certain pair of eyes again. The Don, who will give as well a duet with Susanna Sheep-anova later  of Traviata, bursts of energy and strength. It is not well-known, even in otherwise well- educated circles that La Traviata in its original version tells the story of a young sheep that lost its way. Today we are reminded of this much more powerful version and wish we could stop the time to let this concert last forever. But for a last time the conductor flicks his ear back and forward and the concert ends with  “May all the sheep live long and prosper, after a theme of Johann Sebastian Bach. We bent forward, clapping and cajoling, the sheep look quite contempt, the conductor a bit sweaty, the Sheep-anova and the Don take the lead and slowly as it is their nature the sheep leave the street to graze on the meadow quite opposite of the village pond.

Tinned fruits.

For four weeks I heard nearly nothing of N. Whenever I phoned her just her voicemail answered. Days later a short text message arrived, saying not much more than: “talk to you soon.” These circles of absence are a frequent companion of dear N.’s life, and us, who we love N. dearly, know this for a very long time. We wait patiently and we can wait quite reassured: one day the phone will ring and N. is back. Yesterday was such a day and while I bought beetroot, walnuts and feta cheese for the salad I called D., C. and B. to come over for dinner: N. is back, I said and at 7 PM we all sat together and with a dramatically gesture N. first sighed and then helped herself to salad and cheese before exclaiming even more dramatically: !it is all over.” In the last three months N. fell in love with an artist. The artist, so N. was a most talented man, who spontaneously threw color against a massive canvas and made insightful photographs of the color running down. Obviously the artist aims for a career in waiting rooms of private practices or even worse, sees in Instagram the future of the art scene. “Read On” said N. four weeks ago: don’t be such a spoil-sport, HE-IS-SO-AWESOME. His artwork shows me so many new dimensions of my inner self. Back then I tried not to laugh too hard, but now where all the inspired awesomeness is gone, I am as nice as I only can be and help N. to more salad. The artist however, was good company and N. and he were inseparable for the last four weeks. Then, just a fortnight ago, the artist invited N. over to his place. The candles were lit and I am afraid the table was surrounded by massive canvasses. Salad and Meat were quite okay, says N. and we all nod. Classical music played in the back. Seriously, says N. I was about to fall seriously in love. She shakes her head still in shock and disbelief. I bring cake and B. opens another bottle of wine. N. nods. After we finished the meal, she says, the artist promised a surprise. N. now truly excited thought he might unveil a portrait of her. The artist disappeared into the kitchen. N. admired the portraits and her luck of having found such a companion to sweeten the long and grey autumn days and silently smiled to herself. N. waited and N. waited longer and longer. N. waited and finally N. got impatient and decided to have a look what the artist was doing. Maybe he could use a hand. Maybe he was in need of her hand. The artist, so N. was still stuck in the kitchen,when she arrived. In the middle of a long table, stood tinned fruits of all sorts. The artist busy to open can after can. Tinned peaches, apples, pears and mandarins, N. saw and she saw it with great disgust. The artist looked proud and a bit sorry for the long delay. He pointed to a chocolate fountain behind him. The melting chocolate had already begun to run down. For dessert the artist said, they would dip the tinned fruits into the melting chocolate but this would only be the beginning. Afterwards they would throw fruits and chocolate against the canvas to express their sweet and new love for each other. A piece of pear, dripping with sweet fruit juice he dipped into the chocolate to feed N. But N. in mere disgust and nausea, stumbled backwards, away from the half open cans, the chocolate fountain and the massive, empty canvas to grab her bag and go. Five minutes later N. and her hope of a bright and artistic future were gone. What the artist did with all the canned fruits and the mountain of melted chocolate is uncertain. On the same evening N. deleted her Instagram account. D., C., B., and I nod in silence. then we are having raspberry tart. The raspberries are fresh and N. asks for a second piece.

Eat more grass!

Ireland is an island to the west of Britain. Winds are blowing from the north, south, east and west of the island. Ireland is well known for Rugby, grazing sheep and a beer brewery called Guiness. In rural Ireland ( where I live ) there are more sheep than people but the people are always up for a bit of banter. In urban Ireland, namely Dublin ( where I work ) most people in the city centre are tourists. They are easily to be distinguished not only, because they are all dressed up as if the winds blowing here from all directions would carry them away in the next thirty seconds, if they would not wear their ultra- waterproof windshield jackets, but because they always arrive in flocks alike the sheep we are so very fond of here. Ireland makes it only rarely in the news of the European Union. Probably you buy here and then a piece of Kerrygold butter that is cheaper in Germany than in Ireland and if you are not part of tourist group, the executive president of the James Joyce Society in Aix-en-Provence or a hard-core Rugby fan, I assume you do not care about this small island, west of Britain. I certainly never did before I moved to this island, still today I am not too fond of Joyce, have a distant relationship to Rugby and drink no beer at all. Every morning I haste along the silent and dark road to catch the bus that drives to Dublin. The next train station is two and half kilometers away, and I am always the first person on the bus. The bus driver is a good-humored man and when he sees that I am late and keep on running to catch the bus, he laughs and stops the time I needed to catch up with him. It is the only bus that connects the village with the town. Useless to say that the bus does not run on Saturdays or Sundays. One hour later I get off the bus and while I walk to the University I count the many homeless people on the street. Today I counted three tents, several cardboard boxes at the entrances of shops and people sleeping without any covers in the doorframes. I always had spare money in my pockets till I moved  to Ireland, since I did so, all my change wanders in the paper cups of the homeless people, who accompany my days. Daily you can read in the news paper of the homelessness crisis but year after year, morning after morning I just count more and more sleeping rough on the streets. They are old and young, male and female, they are visible and so very invisible at the very same time. Sometimes you can read in Le Monde or DIE ZEIT or whatever you read where you live, from the economic recovery that takes place in Ireland and especially in Dublin. If you are not an employee of Google this is just a bit of satire on page 3. The Irish Times, a newspaper one would call respectable, has established a series lately that addresses the crisis and helps people to figure out where they can save even more when looking at their meagre checks at the end of every month. Experts and oh, how lovely it is that even a small island has plenty of experts, give you advice on how to handle your income better. Their proposals are stunningly banal and even worse: most cynical. A highlight of their expertise remains still the family I read about lately, who by no means had caviar for breakfast, should now make cuts on food. Adult people were advised to race late to the supermarket to get cheap crap, even cheaper, to buy in the fist place only the cheapest of cheap food and to use cheap ingredients to cook cheap stuff that lasts for weeks. Again, the people advised were a full-time working couple and the experts were smiling as if they had worked out the formula for world peace, while seriously telling grown up people, forced to live on insufficient wages to stop eating Kerrygold butter. But there is space for more I think, why eating every day anywhere, why not only twice a week? Oh, the savings! Why not eating grass? Grass is everywhere in Ireland. It is green, fresh and certainly healthy ( isn’t this success mantra for foodies). It is a never-ending resource, you can have grass all day long, add water and drink “Grassy” the grass smoothie. Do you feel up for something dry? Try hay! Totally vegan as well. “Eat more grass”, I see it clearer and clearer should become the slogan for the recovering Ireland and I am sure if this becomes a success, Ireland will make it into the headlines on every single day and while the village of mine has plenty of meadows, full of grass and herbs, maybe one day even the buses will start driving on the weekends as well.

The world at distance

Nothing of much interest happens. When I leave the house it is still dark outside, when I come back it is already dark again. The cat sleeps. The crows and the squirrels fight underneath the walnut- tree. Here and then I collect a basket full of nuts, without the slightest idea of what to do with them. The grocer’s wife tells the usual gossip and most of it I forget while listening to her. I have been to the movies, but even Michael Fassbender, who stages McBeth does not move me much. I read the Irish Times more out of habit than of interest. My interest in shrill and loudly voiced opinion declines daily and I wonder how much time people have left to fill pages or sidelong paragraph’s with their most often boring opinion of the matters of the world. Don’t they have a garden to mind or a dog to take for a walk? I couldn’t care less. In the evenings I lay on the old-fashioned couch with the colorful quilt I brought many years ago with me from Kenya. Sometimes I read a few pages in a book, but most often the cat jumps on top of the book and falls asleep again. The world and I it seems are in a rather distant relation for quite a while now, not even for half an hour I fell in love this year and not even once in quite a few years I thought: what would be if? Maybe a time of greater silence and fewer words is just about to begin and maybe then a couple of years I would forget all my German. German the language I lost my heart to, did not bring me any luck and maybe I would sleep better if I would forget word after word, till I would sort out all German books in my shelves to give them away, no I would say, shaking my head, I don’t know any German, all the poems, the stories and tales, would be gone and even you, your voice and your words would be lost for me forever and ever and I could forget this love that began so many years ago the lap of my grandmother, who whispered in German into my ear. But for her counts the same true as for me: German never brought us any luck.

As an exception in German-Berliner Geschichten II

Zugig ist der Bahnsteig und kalt. Die S-Bahn kommt nicht. Die S-Bahn kommt absolut nicht. Der Wind pfeift und ich glaube die S-Bahn wird vielleicht nie wieder fahren, jedenfalls nicht von diesem Bahnsteig. Eine Bahn kommt, dann noch eine, aber keine der beiden hält. Ich habe Hunger und Halluzinationen von einem an offenem Feuer gerösteten Ochsen. Oder von einer dampfend heißen Kartoffel-Lauchsuppe, dick bestreut mit geriebenem Käse. Ganz unten in der Tasche finde ich immerhin ein Hustenzuckerl, das dort glaube ich schon viele, viele einsame Tage, wenn nicht gar Jahre auf dem Grund der Tasche verbracht hat. Endlich, aber endlich erbarmt sich unser eine S-Bahn. Mir gegenüber sitzt eine junge Frau mit ihrer Tochter. Acht Jahre alt mag das Mädchen sein und ihre Mutter hat ein Gesicht, das viel zu verbraucht scheint für die Jahre, die es wohl zählt. Mutter und Tochter tragen fast identisch kniehohe Stiefel, das Mädchen hat blonde, die Mutter blondierte Haare. Das Mädchen bohrt die Stiefelspitzen fest in den Boden, die Mutter bohrt ihre Blicke auf ihr Telefon. Irgendetwas murmelt das Mädchen ihrer Mutter zu, die aber plärrt mit erstaunlich lauter Stimme: “Da musst du deinen Vater fragen.” Vater klingt nicht nur verächtlich sondern wie Fatta, mit zwölf Ausrufezeichen mindestens. “Mittach”, plärrt die Mutter dann erneut und aus ihrer mit falschem Kuhfell bespannten Handtasche holt sie ein kleines, gelbes Päckchen hervor. Ich brauche einen Moment bis ich verstehe, dass dies eine Tütensuppe ist, yum-yum oder so heißt sie und sie enthält trockene Nudeln und ein Tütchen Gewürzpulver. Auf der Verpackung ist eine kross gebratene Ente abgebildet. Das Mädchen nimmt die Tüte, zerbricht die harten Nudeln, schüttet sie in ihre Hand, streut Gewürzpulver über die trockenen Nudeln und isst sie. Viele Nudeln kann eine kleine Mädchenhand nicht halten und eine kleine Mädchenhand muss auch noch das Gewürztütchen koordinieren und bald liegen viele Nudeln auf dem Boden der Bahn. Das Mädchen leckt sich das Gewürzpulver von den Fingern. Dann steige ich aus, der Boden knirscht unter meinen Füßen. Im Warmen bin ich dann, ich küsse viele Wangen, ich rede zu schnell und zu lang, ganz bestimmt zu lang, ich schüttle Hände, ich höre mich lachen, jemand bringt mir ein riesiges Stück Kuchen und irgendwann es ist schon sehr spät, essen wir griechischen Salt mit dicken Brocken Käse, der Tomatensaft tropft mir von der Oberlippe, O. ordert einen Berg von Tsatziki, L. und ich teilen uns Lammrippchen, und ganz zum Schluss der Tag ist schon vorüber, stehe ich auf dem Balkon, in den Händen eine große, heiße Tasse Tee und sehe wie schon den ganzen Tag, immer wieder, als sei es mein eigentlicher Schatten, das Mädchen mit den trockenen Tütennudeln in der einen und dem Päckchen Gewürzpulver in der anderen Hand mir gegenüber sitzen, als sei das ganz und gar normal und nicht weiter ungewöhnlich, ein Tag eben wie jeder andere auch.