I used to think Germans behaved strangely in the sun (their manner suspicious, vaguely panicky, a little startled) for the fundamental reason they see very little of it (except for those living in the country’s sunniest city, Freiburg). But living up North these past few months, I have added a second prong to my theorising about the Germans and weather. I now suspect they behave the way they do because one can never be sure, when the sun does eventually come out, whether it will last for 30 seconds, three minutes or three hours and whether, when it disappears, it will be seen again for days or, possibly, weeks.
At the moment, we are edging tremulously into summer. Sort of. There’s no rush here, we don’t want to over-commit too soon. We have had a couple of blindingly beautiful days upon which all and sundry have fired up their mini-grills and grilled mountains of sausages and turkey breasts and pork steaks, occupying every square metre of every public park in the city. And we have had some splendid afternoons that last until 9pm, lighting the entire apartment so it feels like 3pm for hours. But mostly we have had days that cover the entire spectrum of weather possibilities, sometimes within fifteen minutes; rain, wind, hail, sun, dense cloud cover, big, blue skies.
As a consequence, I have adopted the necessary behaviour to deal with this; that is to say, I behave in a suspicious manner when the clouds start to thin (could the sun be coming out?) a little startled when it becomes apparent the sun will come out (but it was just hailing?) and in vaguely panicky manner when the sun arrives (holy shit, I am not in a place I can sunbathe, I need to get to a park and/or bench and/or Strandkorb). Mid-panic, I peel off any unnecessary layers and run outside, power walking/jogging until I find an unoccupied bench – not easy when most are taken up by working bees doing the same panic-Vitamin D-bath that I am, their stockinged legs glinting in the sun. And there I sit, face tipped to the sun, like a real German, until the clouds roll in again.
It’s precisely what I did yesterday, a day which for all intents and purposes was a cool, cloudy one when I set out for work in the morning. Come 1pm, I had a break and, strolling downstairs and outside, it began to spit. So I sought cover in H&M and then wandered back to work, dodging little bullets of rain. I had been back at work with my book for about fifteen minutes when the sun came out. Clocking the cloud cover, it was evident the sunny period was going to last longer than half and hour, so I sprinted to the park, past the working bees with their glinting stockings and warm-looking suits and to an empty bench right up the back. There I sat, smearing myself in the sun’s vitamins, soaking in all of its goodness. The sun lasted until I got home, at which point I lay prone on the couch underneath the window, until the clouds came and stole the light. That night a huge storm rolled in and this morning as I am pondering what to wear to work, the sky is still spitting, with slithers of blue peering through.
What I’m saying is, now I get it Germans. I get it.