December 14th, 2007

operesque

An animal wrangler in my garden

There's a strange man who stands in our hof sometimes, a peasant blanket thrown over his shoulders, a long blue pole in hand. Here's there in all weathers, sometimes even at night. Greeting neighbours with a shy "Hallo!", this rustic mostly just prods the thickly-tangled shrubbery with his pole, calling out "Small!" Apparently he's trying to reclaim an animal of some kind, a black rabbit nicknamed Small which is hiding stubbornly in the bushes. The man is me -- the rabbit wrangler.



I take Small out to dig and nose around. He transforms immediately from a tame to a wild rabbit, and evades me the moment we get outside. He loves to dig and bite and gambol -- his tugging, twisting joy-leap tells you that. But he also loves to hide in the thick shrubbery and chew on twigs, and when he does that you just have to be patient and wait.

There are plenty of things to do out there. You can read blog comments on your iPod Touch (which doubles as a torch you can shine into the shrubbery); your wifi network is still perfectly legible out in the garden. You can think about the novel you're writing -- deciding, for instance, to stop in the middle of jokes and just walk about, admiring the scenery for a while. Slow motion jokes! Jokes like video games you tramp around in rather than playing for the plot!



You can admire what your lit flat looks like from the garden at night. It's quite impressive; you're on the ground floor, and there are four windows, all lit with different sorts of light (reddish pink in the bedroom, halogen yellow in the kitchen, fluorescent white on the white blinds of the living room). They bend around the courtyard, these windows, like a train bending around a track.

Your pretty girlfriend can hand you out a cup of hot Pu-erh tea, and shoot pictures through the window. Out here it's so cold your hands are growing numb -- a novelty which takes you back to enforced rugby matches on dismal Thursday afternoons in Scotland. You wrap your cold hands around the yellow mug, transferring its scalding warmth to your flesh, which starts to tingle. You enjoy being outside in winter. You like being in the garden in the dark.

Jan, your Japanese-American neighbour's Norwegian boyfriend, comes out with some old pizza boxes for the recycling bin. He's an artist. He tells you the flat's a mess just now, too much stuff. The Turkish family who just moved in at the back of the courtyard are cooking -- their windows are all steamed up. But the daughter opens one and looks out at you for a while. She must think you're a nutter. She doesn't know you're winking at Joseph Beuys, who's winking at a shaman.



It's incredibly quiet in the courtyard -- a Berlin thing. No matter how high-density the building, everyone keeps pretty schtumm. You can hear pleasant sounds, though -- Berlin sounds. The aerodrome drone of small taxi-ing prop planes at Tempelhof. A child practicing the cello -- the rumbly, wobbly sound of a beginner sawing out uncertain, half-broken notes. The birds that live in the big tree are going mad, chasing each other around in the dark. Chakk chakk! They're so territorial! And still the rabbit hulks in the hedgerow, a prey animal hiding from a hunter.

Eventually you'll grab him and pin him down and pick him up and bring him in. The trick? A rattled bag of raspberry treats. He can't resist them, even in the wild.