Across town today I had the impulse to come through an overgrown island of trees that surrounds a church, and went wheeling my bike along its narrow, littered path where, if I tuned out the traffic, I could feel as if I were in a tiny woods. Someone is living there and had stacked their possessions under a low, clotty pine and strung their meagre collection of spare garments on a bush to dry. There’s still sun. Stringy and mean but sun nevertheless. We have had perhaps fourteen inconsecutive days of heat and sunshine this summer and already in August it is growing autumnal. As I was pushing my bike a man appeared beside me carrying a green plastic watering can. Berliners are busy when the sun comes out with their wild, colourful, shared public gardens. I’ve seen a woman dunking her can into the canal on a long rope so that she could tend the sunflowers she or someone else had planted and marked off with red and white striped tape. “What,” he said, cheerfully, “a man’s bicycle for a lady? Come now.”
“It’s true,” I said: stimmt. And we both looked down at my voluminous skirts, two prints in varying shades of indigo laid one over the top of the other. I passed a tiny preschool or as they call them, children’s shop, with nine little bicycles locked together out front and two double-barrelled prams parked side by side. I came round the corner and started laughing. A teenage boy was standing outside his ground-floor window, holding the end of a huge scarlet canoe which his friend fed from inside. He looked at me and I could see in his eyes the enjoyment of his instant recollection of the picture they must have made. They started laughing, too. It’s not the weather which keeps me here.