Once there was plenty of empty space here, with knee-high grass and döner vans. Now there are wine bars and restaurants like that of Albert Raurich – former chef de cuisine at the famous elBulli – where diners sit in full view like expensive fish in a viewing tank.

But the house in which I live, one of the oldest in East Berlin, is like a little gem from the past. Its staircase is tiny and twisted, its walls crumbling slightly to reveal ancient brick packed with straw. The hinterhof is an inner-city oasis: huge chestnut trees, masses of wildflowers, and a large grassy expanse where the neighbour’s boys hone their David Beckham skills.

Across the road from my bedroom is the expensively constructed stunningly minimalist concrete-block headquarters for British architect David Chipperfield. Every morning I open my curtains to see a bevy of builders, hammering away in the large empty rooms, preparing for the grand opening.

When I moved here in chilly April, my little flat – tucked in under the tiled roof – felt cosy and nest-like. When summer began and the temperatures rose, the Chipperfield builders stripped off their shirts, and I waited to see what problems might arise from the heat: lack of ventilation, sunstrike at my work desk, etc.

But my little nest remained as habitable as ever. The only problem was that I became afflicted with a bad case of a condition I call Balcony Envy.

Everyone else in my house, and every neighbour for miles around, has a balcony. Some have two. (Grrr!) Some grow herbs, some grow flowers. And every one of these Balcony People revels in their outside space. There they sit every evening, eating and drinking and grilling and chatting – while I stand pale and envious, my nose pressed to my balcony-less window.

My neighbours, though, are not only privileged – they’re also exquisitely polite. This summer I have been invited to more grill parties than I’ve attended in my whole life. Every Saturday evening the delicious scent of well-marinated browning meat begins wafting up to my windows, followed by the words: ‘Will you join us?’

At the end of each mouthwatering evening, the question arises. Whose turn is it next weekend? Then, with great tact and a small amount of pity, my neighbours’ eyes skim over me. I am exempted week after week from the chore of being Chief BBQer, because no one wants to spend even one night of an all-too-short summer in a small enclosed kitchen under a hot roof.

Now that September has arrived, and the evenings grow shorter and the skies grow grey, I feel secretly relieved. For soon I will be free from the guilt of the Never-Host, rid of the sharp pain of the Balcony-Deprived.

And soon the builders will put their shirts back on, and I will hear French doors closing all over Berlin, and al fresco dining will be nothing but a beautiful memory, and I will learn how to cook again and will ask my neighbours in for hearty autumnal meals of roast pork and root vegetables – eaten in a hot cosy kitchen, inside all night, with no side-order of envy.

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