Something woke me up in the middle of the night – it was a noise I had not heard for many months – the sound of rolling thunder, sometimes near, sometimes a bit further away so it seems and then……Rain!!!
A quick peek at my bedside table clock told me that it was just after 2 am – and the thunder and the heavy rain ‘stayed’ over our area for the next few hours, bringing the temperature from the previous day down quite a bit to a more tolerable level – oh, what Bliss!!!
We are at the end of February (by the time of writing) and it normally never rains in February – after all the refreshing Monsoon does not arrive here until June and then normally stays with us for 4 months, bringing much relief from the scorching heat to the farmers, their cattle and for us humans too (never mind the chaos on the waterlogged roads etc.).
Lying now half-awake on my bed I started “daydreaming” (I do not think the word “night dreaming” really exists in this context, or?).
Many many years ago, in my previous life in fact, we had just arrived in Berlin/Germany from a nearly 5-year posting to a certain West-African country. Berlin – this beautiful city I had visited so many times during Fashion Week and on other occasions seemed to welcome us with open arms.
Our official house, smaller than all the previous ones but very comfortable, was near the famous Olympic Stadium in a very nice area, the streets lined with plenty of beautiful trees, a sight which pleased our eyes tremendously.
The house had a standard sized city garden at the back and I could not wait to get “my hands dirty” digging in the soil and planting roses, roses and more roses. But my hopes for a lovely ‘English rose garden’ were soon to be shattered, due to the extremely poor i.e. neglected soil condition.
In the first few days after arriving in the house I used to sit quite frequently on the terrace nurturing a decent cup of hot German coffee and trying to visualise 2 main things; who were our neighbours right and left of the property and where should I plant this and that.
The neighbour on our left turned out to be an old lady who lived all alone in her big house and who’s main concern was a possibility of a number of small children running freely in our garden screaming their heads off (she softened a bit when she realised that there were no children to disturb her precious peace!) She softened even more over the following months when she found out that in fact I was born in Germany and therefore actually spoke her language.
But it was the property on our right which stirred up my curiosity somewhat. And before I actually ever saw my neighbours our dogs, their 2 beautiful German Shepherds and our big black Labrador, whom we had flown in from West-Africa, had made friends, ‘talking’ through the dividing chain-link fencing. Then one day I saw her, a nice looking blond woman my own age, standing in one of her upstairs windows and when she saw me looking she waved with a big welcoming smile, signalling me to come down to our mutual fence, so we could talk.
“Herzlich willkommen, Frau Nachbarin (welcome, Mrs Neighbour) I am Heidi “ she said extending her hand over the fence. And then something very strange indeed happened to me (and to her as well, as she later told me) by shaking her hand and introducing myself to her I suddenly had this feeling, like I had known her most of my life – something I only had felt with one other person previously.
Of course I invited her immediately to my house for “Kaffee und Kuchen” (Coffee and Cake) according to German custom. The next day she came over and we sat, chatted and generally enjoyed each other’s company.
By the time she had to leave and walk just a few steps to her own house next door, the heavens had opened and it was pouring with rain – so I lent her one of our big golf umbrellas to see her home safely.
The next morning our Security –on- duty brought me a nice little thank you note returning my own umbrella and a gift. What was it? Wrapped tightly, decorated with a big big bow and suspiciously looking like a stick of some sort.
But, when we unwrapped this ‘stick’ it turned out to be yet another umbrella.
Quickly I rushed into the garden and only there did I open the gift, since I was brought up that one must never open an umbrella inside the house – bad luck indeed!! And then seeing the writing I just burst into laughter, so much in fact, that a tear or two ran down my cheek, since I had neither heard nor seen this quite standard phrase “Scheiss Wetter” for what seemed to be an eternity, but soon I got used to hearing this every time the rain, snow, fog or just cold came.
In fact it seemed that all the Foreigners posted to Berlin have learned this phrase right from day one of their arrival in the city.
Over the years this umbrella has brought so many happy smiles and even comments while living in London and now here, too. After all we do get quite a number of German speaking tourists into Kerala.
Of course all this is now a long time ago, the umbrella is still with me, having survived all those years, all those moves but most of all, my friendship with Heidi and her lovely family. We do write to each other frequently and talk occasionally on the telephone. She is still very much in my heart and I pray that one day JS and I can fly over to Berlin and we can all meet again
Tschuess for now, Carina