Sunday was my best day ever in Mannheim. Art-schmart, give me a good swim in a cool, cool lake on a hot Mannheim afternoon and…well, my boat just floats. Sorry, if I sound a little loaded. It’s ‘cause I finally managed to open the bottle of Riesling that has been chilling in my fridge for three days and defying opening. First, I had no corkscrew. Then, there was no corkscrew to be bought in my local market in Jungbusch. Then Anne Richter gave me a pen knife-corkscrew thingy and I couldn’t open said bottle. And now! Finally, it’s done and there has been a small drizzle in Mannheim making the air delicate and lovely and my bottle has been opened, so…. you get the drift.
But back to Silver Lake… I was invited by Anne Richter to spend Sunday at her home by the lake. She gives me precise directions and instructions and I follow them like a good German not an overwrought Indian artist. I walk to Parade Platz and ask a nice lady for the train to Hauptbahnhoff and she tells me, in German and Sign, that I could just as easily walk there, baby. You read me right, she called me baby! Woohooooo! I love affection from strangers.
So I reach the station get my ticket, stand on the right platform, and watch the right German clock for precise German timing. In between I have a small interlude – I try to call Anne to tell her I am on the 12:12, but my phone is out of money since said Indian artist has spent it all telling her daughter about rabbits on the Neckar riverbank. So there I am with no working phone. A German girl in brown clothes and cigarette in hand takes pity on me and sends Anne an sms and swiftly moves away before I ask her for any more favours.
Then. The train doesn’t arrive! I scuttle down the platform only to see two bogies and ask a man who is boarding whether this is the train to Bobenheim (where Anne Richter will pick me up). No, he says, try the next train. And the train and him are gone! And it’s 12:15 and nowhere in sight is my train. What do I do…. I go to an official, who says – You just missed the train! It’s gone! That was it!
I go down to the help desk where a sweet man says – It’s a good thing you didn’t get that one, it doesn’t go to Bobenheim and the only announcement about train change is in German. And, you can use the same ticket to board the next train at 12:44. Oh good, I think and but myself a gelato. Yogurt with berries.
To cut a long story short, I arrive in Bobenheim at 1:04 and…. no Anne Richter! Now, this is seriously unexpected. I bob about wondering what next. The station is like Lillyput land with no phone, just a station-manager who is doing his laundry. I ask in my special way (Ich bin eine henne) if there is a phone I can use. He tells me, in his special way, that there is nothing here. Nothing. Then, in afterthought he says – Walk 200 meters that way and you will find a phone. In utter despair I begin walking and then, praise the Lord! Anne Richter!!!!!
I pad around her lovely house and garden, feeling so happy, as she picks raspberries and tells me the sticky stuff underfoot is the summer sap from the trees. Then we cycle through the woods and pretty mangroves and backwaters with swans till we reach the lake. I can only gasp at the beauty of it.
From the moment we were in it, it was the most perfect sort of bliss. Warm and cools patches of water to swim through, aquamarine, clear. I could have spent all my days there. It was the stuff of childhood dreams – campfire, water, Huckleberry Finn.
I felt so delighted for all the children there. For Anne and Michael’s girls – Selma, Norma and Elise, who will always know this feeling and hold it close to them.