If being rudely woken to the sound of hammering wasn’t enough, Sarah’s landlord sends her an ominous text message
II’ve always yearned to be a morning person, someone who jumps out of bed with clear bright eyes, glossy hair and endless enthusiasm for the next daily lesson from the School of Life. But yearning doesn’t often turn into reality. And my reality is this. Wildly matted hair (I ignored the good advice from my favourite hairdresser back in my early 20s – “Always sleep on a silk pillowcase, Sarah!” – and it all seems way too late now). Eyes that feel as if someone’s attacked them with a glue stick. And the knowledge that it’ll take something like an electric cattle prod to get me to speak before midday.
Today, I’m pulled from the soggy depths by an ominous pounding reverberating through my pillow. Berlin is in a permanent state of reconstruction. It no longer dances to a techno beat but to the thudding of jackhammers. “Goddammit!” I check my phone: just past 7, which for someone who’s been awake until 4 is akin to the middle of the night.
Prising open my UHU eyes, I stumble to the bathroom – where I find a bronzed Adonis staring at me. “What the...?” I leap back and hide in the hallway, cursing the fact that, because I’m on the fourth floor, I’ve never bothered to put up blinds. Peering around the corner, I see that Adonis is erecting scaffolding over my window. I edge forward, pulling my skimpy T-shirt over my thighs. He smiles and waves at me. I’m desperate to pee. I grab the biggest towel I own and, half-apologetically, halfdefiantly, I stand on the toilet and nail the towel over the window.
One hour later, a text from my landlord. “Come downstairs now. We need to talk.” Even though he’s gaucheness on legs and so German that he phrases what would ordinarily be a polite query as an order – the words fill me with dread. “We need to talk” has to be one of the most ominous sentences ever penned by made-for-TV movie writers.
It’s still three hours before my usual time to begin talking, but I want to know what the hell’s going on. The clashing and clanging around my usually peaceful pad sounds like a battle scene.
“Okay,” I text back. “Put coffee on.” This isn’t a request; it’s a brutal necessity. When I open my door, I find three more muscular Adonises there, cordoning off the staircase. “Tzk-kzi kow-skli, o-lowskiii!” one of them shouts at me. I don’t understand Polish but it’s pretty clear he’s telling me to stay put.
I take a deep breath, avoid looking at the glimpse of tiled floor four floors below me, and mount the bannister. I swoosh past the builders and come to a leaping halt outside Dr Now’s door. Not bad! I haven’t done that since I was seven.
He wrenches the door open, coffee in hand. “Thank god!” I say, reaching for it. “Nein!” He pulls his hand back possessively. “This is mine!” Gaucheness on legs, I remind myself, while also reminding myself he’s the only reason I can afford to live in a quaint, characterful
I’m pulled from the soggy depths by an ominous pounding reverberating through my pillow
100-year-old house in central Berlin.
He’s even more ruffled than I am. His usually pallid cheeks are Mary-Poppins red as he breaks the news. “The building’s falling apart. Bomb damage from the war. It’s literally splitting in two.”
It’s pretty bad for him, of course. He owns two apartments, and insurance companies have become adept at dodging this sort of thing. I try to feel sorry for him, but as I seize his discarded cup and slurp wildly at the dregs of his coffee, all I can think is: ‘Where am I going to live now?’