Is toast the ultimate comfort food? I’m thinking of Niger Slater, who named his book after toast. Since the apartment has neither toaster nor grill, I haven’t had a slice of toast since August.  The kitchen is too small for a toaster, but when the chaps were doing makeshift toasting in the oven (which really doesn’t do the job), I persuaded them of the merits of a toaster. Today I went to the cheapo outlet Rossman and bought one.  Like a user off his favourite drug for months who finds a source, I rediscovered the joys of toast again today.  Actually, it’s really necessary now – the sky has turned a snowy tone of white and the temperature is dropping nearer to zero every night.  This feels like an Irish winter, but here it has to get a great deal colder.  I have to remind myself to take hat and gloves whenever I go out, and the thermals are a given now.

This building is quiet at nighttime, but during the day, there are lots of children in the large back garden, when the weather isn’t too cold.  When I was here just a couple of weeks, I heard a child in the apartment above issue the most blood-curdling scream. I stood stock-still, quite convinced that I was going to have to call Child Protection Services, listening to the child continue to scream for all he was worth, while an obviously angry father gave out stink about something.  Eventually it stopped, but at that stage I had a mental picture of dreadful parents and poor little mite. The following week, I happened to meet the mother and child in the hall for the first time.  As an earnest and lovely German parent, she was explaining to the two year old with great logic that they couldn’t take the larger stroller out because it wouldn’t fit on the U-bahn, while the two-year old got worked up about not getting his way.

Since this, I have been wondering about the constraints put on parents by raising children in apartments. Berlin has the highest number of renters per city in Germany, and there are lots of families. When Brigid and Niall and their four children moved into the middle flat in Cliff Terrace while they were between houses, Luke, then just a year old, discovered that he barely had to open his mouth during the night and one of his parents sprang out of bed to stop him waking the whole household, upstairs and down.  Do Berlin parents have the same experience – do they never say, “feck it, that child is just acting up, give it another minute or two and she’ll be back to sleep”.  Or perhaps they use that stereotypical logic on the child.  “Waltraud! Do you realise that you are jeopardising our rental agreement again?”  Someone I met says parents here use this kind of adult exchange with kids. Her friend addressed her 18-month old daughter by explaining that it was no use if she just stood there and bawled, she had to learn to express what she wanted, otherwise the parents would never know.  Since all of us grew up with the kind of mother that said “Ahh, the baba, she’s probably tired”, most of us find it astonishing to even try to use logic on a tantrum.  However, most children I see here are model, well able to express themselves, and logical, so maybe the constraint of growing up in an apartment has benefits.

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