6:00 on Monday morning, the sun is almost up and the grass is drenched with dew as if it were Autumn already. The swallows are at their most active at this time; they flash around the sky, harvesting the air, avoiding each other with aerobatic skill, fluttering wings like little blades, fork tails that open and close like scissors with every jink and dive. They nest in the eaves and their babies are strengthening their wings for their migration to Africa; I guess they’ll be on their way in a couple of months.
The weekend has been a therapeutic experience; I hadn’t realised how much useless rubbish I’d accumulated and how much of it has not been used for years; ancient coffee-makers, packets of Dreft, that old computer, broken swivel chair that has an unpleasant effect on the backside, you get my meaning. Herr Novak says leave it in the garage and he’ll get rid of it but he’ll probably charge me for it as well. Then there are the clothes…if it hasn’t been worn for a year, out it goes. It’s quite cathartic. Today I have to go to the Rathaus (I tried to explain how amusing that sounds to my German friends but they didn’t see the funny side) to get my Abmeldung. This is a green piece of paper and without it, no one will believe that I’ve had the temerity to migrate.
My neighbour, Alastair (who is never here) was here this weekend. He wanted to drag me out to see our friend Bernd who has a Gasthaus with liberal opening hours in Bergisch Gladbach. I should have gone but I was in a strange mood. I describe it as ‘abschieded-out’. Abschied is German for a parting of the ways. I knew that if I went it would end up as a five-in-the-morning job because it always is, and I didn’t need the hangover. Instead I settled down with a glass of wine and watched a new DVD of Der Rosenkavalier. If you don’t know it, this opera is a sumptuous confection of Viennese fluff by Richard Strauss (a German- not one of the Austrian waltz family). I love it because the music is exquisite; the lush orchestration makes Wagner seem to have a rather light touch. But what makes this opera different is that the stage is not littered with dead bodies at the end, just a young couple in love and an older woman with a broken heart. The trio in the last act always brings a tear to my eyes. Like I say, I was in a strange mood.
It’s now seven and the sun is up. The valley runs east-west and is flooded with a yellow light that makes the mist glow. The swallows have moved away from the house and are flashing about as the sun warms their wings. We see them in Portugal as well and I wonder whether they are the same vigorous little creatures that have nested here, brought up their young and migrated.
If so, they and I have a lot in common. The only difference is that they always come back.