Friday, January 03, 2014


Andreas Trepte

My first home in England was a room on the lower-ground floor of a bay-fronted Victorian on the north side of Cambridge, furiously and multiplicitously painted magnolia over woodchip wallpaper upstairs, but downstairs a curiously aquatic pale green which added a Verne-ish vibe to my subterranean bolthole. Damp crawled the walls along with copper heating pipes and outside the crumbly bay window on the mossy wet steps I sometimes found a toad, slick-nubbly and step-coloured, serenely gulping air once a minute.

One early, early morning when my boxes were still unpacked I was startled awake by someone tapping at the window. I gathered the delightfully vile rosebud-trellis printed curtain aside. A flash of something, but nothing. No-one there. I blinked at the tangle of ferny, mossy, vine-draped things planted outside the window and yawned. 

The next morning, someone was tapping at the window again. I had new blue sheets from M&S, because it was the first shop I'd found on the first day, gritty with fatigue and a kind of dumbfounded existential drunkenness from finding that I had actually moved myself to the other side of the world. And I needed sheets. 

I pulled my new sheets up to my chin and lay in bed listening to the tapping. Tap, tap, TAP. Tap tap tap. TAPTAPTAP. A silence. TAP. I curled an eye around the edge of the curtain. A bird. A double-handful of straciatella alertness, ripple-barred underneath like a blue whale, with the round bright brown eye of the teddy bear that stares at you in the dark. A snail is on her nose. She brings it down sharply on a cracked concrete tile among the ferns, a foot or so from my face. TAP. She lays it carefully on the tile and removes bits of shell until her breakfast is ready. One gulp. Two hops as one might pat one's tummy, and she is gone. It is a song thrush, but I don't know that.

I don't know any of the names of the laundry detergent in the supermarket when I go shopping.  It is cold, and I eat a lot of toast.

After that I watch the thrush have breakfast every morning from a crack in the curtain. She knows what she is doing. 

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