One time, when I was still married to Rico’s Dad – actually, I think it was back when I wasn’t even married to him yet – we were walking around the Schöneberg area and I stopped by the canal and gazed lovingly at the scene in the distance.
“Isn’t that beautiful,” I murmured.
Rico’s Dad looked in the direction where I was looking.
“There’s a power plant over there,” he said, pointing.
“Oh,” I said. I looked again. He was right. There was a power plant type thing on the side of the canal. “I didn’t mean that power plant thing. Just ignore the power plant. Isn’t that beautiful?”
I felt pretty much like Anne of Green Gables when she stumbles upon Hester Gray’s garden or perhaps Elizabeth Bennet as she stares down across the grounds from that window in Pemberley.
“I wish I came from London,” my ex said. “It must be great, to come from a really ugly, truly ugly place. You just don’t have any standards.”
And it’s true. People from London have no standards. I mean, I complain about the dealers at Hasenheide and the dog poo in Friedrichshain – but that’s just because complaining about shit is the German equivalent of small talk and I don’t wanna be impolite.
“There are lots of drug dealers at Hasenheide,” I say at dinner parties. “Some of them stand kind of close to the kids’ playground area. It’s not good.” Later on, I’ll say something like: “And there is actually a chemical in dog poo that can turn a kid blind if they get in their eye. But the Ordnungsamt just don’t give a shit. Literally! It’s not okay. It isn’t acceptable. It’s totally unmöglich.”
But I’m just faking it. My words are all empört and German but inside I am a cheerful Cockney heart untouched, seriously impressed that you never find any heroin needles in the sandpit.
I even like Görlitzer Park. Sebastian Lehmann describes Görlitzer Park as not so much a park but a “desert” covered in the “mountains of black ash” from “countless barbecue-based feasts.” It’s true. It’s not a proper park; it’s more like a huge hole in the ground where people do barbecuing.
But I feel happy there. Happy inside.
I know it’s yellow and dusty and scruffy and dirty – we took my boyfriend’s mother to Görli once, and she said: “Oh, there was a festival here last night and they haven’t cleaned it up yet.” We said, happily: “No, it’s always like this.” If gypsies set up camp in Görlitzer Park you wouldn’t even notice. But I love it there. I even love those comatose pigs. It’s a party park, man. It’s not about the trees or the green or the beauty of nature and that. It’s about the grill-parties.
“Let’s go to Görli,” I said to my Australian friend this weekend. “They’re having a Kinderfest. And if it’s like, too, too hideous, like if it’s unbearably hideous, we can just go to the farm and hang out.”
“Oh, Jacinta,” she answered. “Please don’t make me go to Görlitzer Park. I lose the will to live whenever I’m in Görlitzer Park.”
“You’ve got the wrong attitude. You’re looking at it all wrong. You have to stop thinking of Görlitzer Park as an actual park. It’s not actual park. It’s just a huge dust bowl where people have parties. Just think of it, in your head, as Görlitzer Dust Bowl and not Görlitzer Park. Then you’ll have fun.”
“I just can’t,” she said. “Please don’t make me. You wouldn’t like it there, either, if you came from Australia. I mean, I grew up next to a rainforest, you know? I basically grew up next to a rainforest. Every time I go near Görlitzer Park, I basically feel desperately, unbearably and fundamentally unhappy.”
“Okay,” I said, and we packed a picnic and took our boys to Tempelhofer Feld. It was a brilliant idea, turning that old airport into a huge park. Whoever decided to do that deserves a medal. A big, shiny, golden medal. It was a brilliant idea. It’s a beautiful park. There’s so much space, you can feel your heart chakras opening right up and I don’t even believe in all that crap. It’s impossible to feel unhappy there. Everyone feels happy there. Everyone. And not just people who grew up in London.