I came back furious. My ex-husband has been lying to my daughter who lives with him. I mentioned it to her twin, who lives with me (yes, fucked up).
‘It’s like the Ueberraschung button’ he said. ‘The first time you press it, it’s a surprise, but not the hundredth time’. This made me laugh, but I was still cross.
How many years ago was it, that horrible, horrible long weekend in Berlin? My ex and I barely speaking. He silent, sullen. Me also silent, fairly spitting with anger, furious with him, and very sad. So passive, resigned, he was, I thought. In fact, he was already lying to us all. I just sat outside a museum and wept. The atmosphere in our room was very brittle. It was a little suburban hotel. Otto. It had a tiny claustrophobia-inducing lift. We’d cram in. It would lurch up. There were buttons, obviously, for each floor. And one marked ‘Ueberraschung’. Which means ‘surprise’. And when you pressed it, it said ‘kikirikikirikee’ like a parrot, with rainforest noises in the background. As my son said, after the first time it was no surprise, but still we loved to press it. Nice touch. The lift, indeed the whole hotel smelt of Germany. German apartment houses. It was the same in Omi’s flat in Munich.
Berlin was nice, but the holiday I remember as utterly miserable. Yes, we saw the Ishtar Gate and the DDR museum; we ate Currywurst (nasty, but the children were keen). I was completely demented with stress and anxiety and could not quite put my finger on why. I also could not walk. My knees were both so incredibly painful that I hobbled at a snail’s pace. Going down the stairs was an impossibility (hence the lift); at every step one of the children had to support me. The doctors could not fix it. I’d had physiotherapy till the insurance ran out. My wrists hurt too – I was told it was arthritis. I had headaches every day. Everything hurt. Funny how things don’t hurt so much anymore.
Image: Different lift, this photo taken in Tate Modern.