Staying at home and being temporarily relieved of work commitments means one takes in one’s surroundings without an anti-mooch alert. So I looked at the trees in our communal garden and really took them in. We’re lucky to live in a block with what’s called a Gartenhof, organic and green, as opposed to the usual concrete yard. We also back onto one of the many Friedhöfe (cemeteries) in our district, itself packed with poplars, sycamore, chestnut and pine. In our ‘Hof’ alone there are ten big silver birch trees. In Berlin trees are numbered, bearing a little disc on their bark. One I snapped yesterday was number 16. I’ll count the Hof total another day to provide some relief from comparing infection statistics.
After a sunset walk/exercise the other day, my partner remarked on the contrast between our online experience (a rolling programme of breaking news and worrying reports punctuated by Covid-19 memes and strategies) and outdoor life, which especially on these gloriously sunny, early spring days, seems unruffled, even pleasurable. It’s quite a challenge to tally the two – is there really a health emergency going on? Everybody looks so chilled and, er, healthy. But just like the online realm, appearances can be deceptive. Things that would normally be brightly appealing, threaten a darker shadow. I rode past Tempelhofer Feld yesterday and saw greater numbers strolling as well as lounging. It was hard to see whether the maximum-two rule was being stuck to and as I neared the end gate, the police personnel beside two parked vehicles were clearly wondering the same. Not for the first time, I thought how easily one can slip into a citizen-stasi mindset, measuring how closely others are observing the rules.
On my way to buy some supplies, I passed our nearest Gabenzaun (giving fence) where locals have draped giveaway clothes and bags of essentials for those in need. Painted slogans like “No-one should be left behind” hang near laminated signs stipulating that donations are only for the homeless and vulnerable.
In Rossmann’s, the Drogerie. I felt nervous being inside a space with more people than usual. There were stickers on the floor saying “Abstand” (distance) near the tills but the cashiers had no plexi-glass or visors. Not so in the three Apotheke I went to in search of echinacea and disinfectant spray. The first had a strict limit of one customer only, the second featured designated entrance and exit doors, all had perspex shields along the counter, open only for payment. The third, with the sprays I was looking for, is named after the local Neukölln football team, the Tasmanians. I hope it’s not too long before we can all go out and play again.