I heard the loveliest expression the other day, and, despite others chiming in certain it wasn’t a Sprichwort in their region, and perhaps not a Sprichwort at all, it is so exquisite I am determined to use it: die Füchse kochen Kaffee. When the mists are rising from the ground, perhaps early in the morning at the break of a cold autumn’s day, the foxes are making their coffee. The image of russet foxes huddled around a pot of coffee, early in the morning, the steam rising and winding its way through trees and up hills, is one that has stayed with me these last few days. Language can be such a lovely thing.
Apropros language, der Lüdde said the most insightful thing the other day. Both my children like the first fifteen minutes of a movie called Sing. It’s an American film, so they watch it in English because we try and watch things in their original languages so the kids get exposure to English beyond what I give them. My son, who is two, asked if I could put it on the other morning. It started playing in German and after a few seconds he said, ‘Mama, not working!’. We switched it to English and he settled back on the couch and said with a satisfied sigh, ‘da, working.’ It struck me as so perfect that the way he chose to express the mismatch of language to TV show – despite being able to watch and understand Sing in both – was by saying it wasn’t working. He meant, of course, it wasn’t quite right. Doable, but not how it was supposed to be and, frankly, he’d prefer to watch it in its native tongue.
I feel, sometimes, like all I think about is language. I teach one, and in one, and I’m learning the other. I write with one and I study how my children acquire both, simultaneously. Foxes cooking coffee (because Germans cook coffee, they don’t make it) and dubbed movies not working – my days are spent handling the nuts and bolts of understanding and expression, finding patterns and similarities, searching for words that fit. It’s lovely and strange, and, in a way, a type of suspension I will now never not have. I realised, recently, that sometimes – often – a coffee with someone who speaks Denglisch is easier than a coffee with an English speaker. I had coffee with a friend the other day, my only Aussie one here, and we could speak Aussie and Denglisch and when that happens, it’s as if conversation takes on additional dimensions into which one can wander, fully understood regardless of odd sentence structure, or Anglicised German verbs, or Ersatz words. My German is a mess, but opening the door to a second language has had a riotous impact on how I express myself.
Also, die Füchse kochen Kaffee. Autumn is here, after a somewhat delayed start. The long, hot, dry summer we had turned into the (super fun and otherwise always welcome) drunk party guest who refused to go home. We were in tee-shirts, barbecuing and drinking white wine in the middle of October. Guilt hung thick in the air at how enjoyable it all was, because tee-shirts and barbecues in October are, if nothing else, an indication the world is not working. I have lost count of the number of people who have said how much the weather this year has been like it must be ‘back home’. Except back home it’s hotter and even drier.
But now the thick house socks have come out. The big one has new winter boots, her old ones now put aside for the small one. The temperature has dropped, the rain is ever-present, the mornings dark. These past few days, a wicked wind has been screaming through, and our garden is littered with leaves. The clocks went back, which means nothing if you have children. But a part of me likes the time change – I like that tremendous surge of light that comes with the clocks going forward in March, and I like the dark evenings this time of year because they bring with them Christmas and lights and the sense it is time to slow down and go easy. An invitation for this part of the world to, once more, turn in on itself and hunker down, for the outdoors to go to sleep. You know, it has taken so many years, but I am now just accepting the notion of a garden going to sleep as a good thing. That the stark nakedness of winter is, in fact, not death but dormancy, a far more hopeful prospect.
Here’s to Glühwein season in sight and slowing down. And to foxes making coffee in the morning.