Etwas zu viel Wasser (engl. Originalversion der Kolumne in der htr vom 20.06.2013)
‘It’s from a poem by Coleridge. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.’ I reach way back into the past, to my English Literature education. ‘He’s in the middle of the ocean, dying of thirst, but he can’t drink salt water. So it’s a metaphor for…’
‘For the European summer?’ Haruki gazes out at the rain.
I can’t blame him for the suggestion. He’s spent the past two months in England, enduring the wettest coldest spring since 1962. Now he’s in Germany, where 178 percent more rain fell in May than last year, and floods are saturating Lower Saxony, and the media is predicting the worst summer for over a hundred years.
Somehow Haruki remains sunny by nature and keen on al fresco dining. We set off under umbrellas for an upmarket restaurant near the Reichstag, favoured by politicians and actors, and sit outside under a streaming awning. When the waitress tells us they’ve run out of San Pellegrino, my friend winks. ‘Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink!’
Why don’t we feel more comfortable with the wet stuff? Almost 66 percent of our bodies and 70 percent of our brains are made of water. 80 percent of a pineapple, 90 percent of a tomato. We swim, dive, shower, take baths, and soak ourselves in thermal pools. But when water falls from the sky, we run for cover.
Haruki and I eat slightly soggy tagliatelle and watch for luminaries. It’s rumoured that recently Brad Pitt was here and he tipped a waitress the same amount as an average monthly rent in Berlin. We don’t see Brad or Angelina, Merkel or Obama, but soon we’re immersed in a private drama when a friend calls in tears.
When we arrive, she’s babbling to the houseowners, the neighbours, and a few nosey passers-by. ‘I popped out to the supermarket, and when I came home water was pouring down the stairs!’
She’s clutching a huge bottle of Evian, which at this point seems slightly redundant. But Haruki reminds me, in a fascinated whisper, of the Ancient Mariner and the fact one can’t drink soapy water from a malfunctioning washing machine that’s flooded the building from the top floor to the cellar. Even he, who’s survived a tsunami, seems awestruck by how much water a German washing machine can expel during a standard 40-degree washcycle.
Back home, having taken a bath, I stand drying my hair and dreaming of where one might go for a reliably sunny summer holiday. I go to the kitchen to put on coffee and when I return to the bathroom and the present moment, the floor is awash with water. The pipes under the bath have decided there’s still not enough water in the world.
I call my washing-machine friend. Has she finished with her emergency plumber, and could she send him straight to my house?
Haruki appears in the doorway armed with a new English quote. “Is this a case of “It never rains but it pours?”’
‘You could say that,’ I sigh, mopping madly, as the rain pours down outside.