Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Well, that's one mystery solved...

(Nope, not the pigeons - although, aren't they growing at a rate of knots? The slightly smaller one always seems to be completely on the ball and looking at me. A touch disconcerting - have to keep reminding myself it's just a pigeon, and not even a full-grown one at that!)

I had been feeling just slightly paranoid about the Hausmeister (caretaker) of the block of flats I'm living in. I have a couple of questions regarding the flat, and I'd been told that he lived, with his wife, in the flat directly above mine. This information having been imparted to me on my first day here, I was not 100% certain that I had understood it correctly, so I approached their door with trepidation.

As a professional opera singer, and an unavoidably loud one at that, I have a little speech ready for such occasions (not asking about the plumbing, per se, but pacifying neighbours before I deafen them).* With the help of the invaluable LEO online dictionary, I'd translated this and had it shakily memorised. I could hear movement in the flat above, so, girding my loins, I trotted up and rang their bell.

Nothing. The movement ceased, but the door remained firmly shut. Full of useless adrenalin from the courage I'd plucked up, I slunk back downstairs and worried. I tried again a couple of times, but the same thing happened. Paranoia quickly invaded. Had I already been singing without realising it, and they'd hated it so much they wouldn't open the door? Did I maybe have the wrong flat for the Hausmeister? Worryworryworry...

So upon my return from the party over the weekend, cycling slowly and cheerfully along the banks of the Rhine, I got to thinking, well if I invited people over to my place, how would I open the main door of the flats, being three floors up? In one of those laugh-out-loud lightbulb moments, I suddenly realised - the buttons outside each door are NOT doorbells. They're how you open the main door!

I am now haunted by the thought of the poor Hausmeister or his wife, frozen in their hoovering, thinking, I'm sure there's someone outside the door... while I trembled outside, thinking, god they're ignoring me again.... Surrealism is alive and well and flourishing in the gaps between cultures!!
* This oration has been honed to a point from necessity. In one flat, as soon as I opened my mouth, a broom hit the ceiling of the flat below me. In another, my neighbours came round to ask what the music was I was singing at the moment because it was so overwhelmingly beautiful. They were very observant orthodox Jewish; it was of course Wagner. However my favourite anecdote in this regard has to be the one where I went round an entire block of flats in Whetstone, north London, delivering this spiel. I ended with the lady on the other side of the party wall, who would be bearing the brunt of my practice yowlings. I'd barely finished the first sentence before she boomed: "You'll have to speak up, dear; I'm deaf"... a match made in heaven!

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