A stroll through the neighbourhood
The other day I walked down our nearby park where loads of people were sitting, chatting, running or shouting after kids (nappy valley), playing football or other things. I thought, well in Berlin I never saw so many people playing ball games in the park and especially not that seriously, with all the fancy dress and equipment. Crossing the buried river, which you could sense on a humid day early in the morning with that wet cold mist creeping up your legs, more moms and some dads with their little monsters are busy at the café, feeding, drinking, exchanging news and advice. Approaching the exit of the park, my eyes caught a strange sight: a man covering his eyes with his left forearm leaning on the stone cross in front of the church muttering some words I could not understand due to the distance. I walked on with a kind of shyness not to disturb this probably local ritual of mourning and was just about planning a small research about it in the local library, when all of a sudden a boy peeked at this man from his hiding place. This strange ritual was nothing other than a hide and seek game and the man was just counting…
My cycle had a flat tire, I needed a repair kit to fix it, it was Saturday afternoon and most of the shops were closed. One shop, an old fashioned hardware shop seemed to be still open. It was difficult to find the entrance with pots and pans, buckets, flowers, window boxes, compost bags and ladders hanging and standing outside the shop. The entrance looked more like a cave opening, leading into the dark and unknown.
The way into the shop was framed with small paper bags full of seeds, boxes with nails and screws piling up to the ceiling. There were so many things hanging and standing on every square inch that it gave the impression of a wall pattern, not single items. But at the end of this path there was a light, glooming out of a square hole in the wall, framing an older Chinese woman busy calculating and scribbling something on a small notepad with her left hand while her right hand is running up and down an abacus adding a rhythmic wooden clicking sound to the whole picture. She did not take any notice of my presence and so I adjusted my eyes to the penumbra of the shop. Finally she raised her head and gave me a questioning look, which I answered with my question about a repair kit for a cycle. An approving mumble came out of her and she disappeared into the darkness of the back part of this maze. I only could hear her ongoing mumble, more like a kind of inquiring mumble to herself, some rattling, moving things and finally a mumble or even a tiny squeak of approval, sounds of scuffling feet returning, there she was with the requested item in her wrinkled hand. The price clearly hand written on the box, 1,30 Pounds. I fumbled in my purse to pass her the exact amount, which earned me another approving mumble. The coins disappeared somewhere in a tin box and her right hand already added another wooden abacus ball to her calculation। I parted with a greeting and a smile, which she nodded off. Out on the street with squinty eyes, I thought, I will come more often to this shop.