I’m not exactly sure what happened here, certainly not a glitch in the matrix or anything similar, but I’ve had the feeling something is not working quite as it should for a few months. Now and then my letters will appear on top of the communal letterbox unit, rather than in my little slot, even though my name is clearly in the right place, and relatively easy to read. I have had my copy of the TLS delivered with a notation on the front, hand written, that there is something wrong, but the address is absolutely correct, and copies have been delivered most weeks on time and without problems. I have even considered confronting my post person and asking why they cannot seem to get it right, even though I have been living here for over a year now. Perhaps I will do that this month, since I now have more than enough time on my hands. I will officially be sitting at home for many weeks to come, if not months, having had the pleasure of – unbeknown to me – breaking my left foot. This gives me time to read considerably more books, continue with the decoration of my new apartment and, hopefully, finish unpacking the last thirty or so boxes of books.

Truth be known, I only managed to transport the last few boxes to my new abode – if I can still call it that after so long – a fortnight ago. The house sale did not go quite as planned, after we discovered that there are protected parking spaces on the property which, despite an official application, cannot be removed. This scared off my best hope purchaser, a company looking to demolish the building and replace it with small apartments, and put me back several months, as well as several thousand euro. Fortunately a new buyer has jumped into the breach, one who wishes to renovate and live there with his family, and who was my neighbour until I moved out. We’re over the initial negotiation phase and waiting for the lawyer to write up the contract, which will be a big relief for me and my bank manager. Not immediately, we’re doing a Rent and Buy agreement: they rent until the bank grants them a mortgage, which would be in August next year. In the meantime they renovate, convert the house into two living quarters, maybe three, and still live at home. And I spend my time deciding which pictures should be on which walls, where new bookshelves should be as soon as I can afford them, how to clean carpets, and what will be served up for dinner. The advantages, and disadvantages, of an almost single life.

My biggest concern recently, aside from my broken foot, has been whether to bore holes in the walls to hang my pictures or not. Eventually I have been convinced that, since I do not plan on moving again, and do plan on being carried out of here feet first when the time comes, any holes in the walls, when they are discovered, will no longer need to concern me. There are no house inspections or similar, not like these Home Owners Associations in the USA, where someone with too much time on their hands, and a little bit of authority, makes the lives of everyone else a living hell. I am meant to allow a company access to check the smoke alarms once a year but, after fourteen months here, no one has been to check. I’ve had the heating read, but not yet received the results of that. Aside from that, there seems to be no interest from the controlling company whatsoever. The rent is paid on time and automatically, and that seems to be enough to keep anyone and everyone out of my hair. I have asked about the smoke alarms, of course, since it is a legal requirement that we have them, and that they work – which mine do not – but it has gone no further as yet. Perhaps it never will. Perhaps I will live here for the next twenty or thirty years with broken smoke alarms, and no worries that a fading battery will cause them to go off randomly in the middle of the night. And, yes, I had that with the alarms I bought for my house back in the day, and it is not a good experience.

Books and quantities of books. I have lost count of how many I have, but I have also not counted how many I either left to be trashed in the house when I moved out, or have donated to the small street library near here. We had an agreement that whatever was left in the house when I said I had moved out would be removed and trashed by the new owners. They’re ripping out old walls and roofing anyway, so the containers are there, and a few cubic metres of rubbish makes little difference in the end. Then, as I started sorting through the books which made it here, I began setting many to one side; the books I will never read again, which I did not enjoy, which are of little real value for whatever reason. It is something of an eye-opener when you really sort out the wheat from the chaff. I filled my little shopping bag on wheels to transport deselected titles to the little library so many times, I think it might need new tyres. And I am not finished yet. I will have to be honest with myself a few more times and weed out more as I unpack more; there simply isn’t enough room here.

Not that I regret the move because of the loss of a substantial part of my library. This is hardly the first time there has been a purge, and not just of books. Many years ago, leaving Northern Ireland to move to Germany, I had to decide between my books and my music – several thousand vinyl records. I came away with most of the books, and donated the records to charity. No feelings of regret, I have to admit, the same then as now. It is a part of life, moving on, leaving the old for the new. Discarding and replenishing. In a way it is a relief, a loss of a form of slavery – in the sense that Diogenes meant it – and a freeing of the spirit, as well as the chance to further the pleasures by replenishing, by becoming a slave to new works of literature which, perhaps, will be worthy of a more permanent place in the future. Life is too short for badly written books. And life is too short to worry about a few holes in the walls. And a slave, I have to add, to music still as, having bought myself one of those so-called retro record players, I am now seeking out and buying all the music from my past which I now know was good, was worth having. The benefits of hindsight and experience. I have to hold my self back, of course, since I am now paying for two places of residence while living in one, but there is a long list of wants stored on the internet for me to gradually work my way through.

Not that I plan on freeing myself up according to all the demands of Diogenes philosophy. Quite a few things I can agree with, I suppose, but not the most basic demands of the Cynics. I have to draw the line at their acceptance, or promotion, of both incest and cannibalism. I am also not too sure about the idea of being so free as to have wild sex in public either, but perhaps that is more my age than anything, or the lack of a suitable partner. Best not to pursue that avenue of thought. And I am also not too sure about living in a large clay pot around the back of some temple or government building. Living under a bridge or in a partially burned out house, as I have done, is one thing, but an easily broken clay jar is a step too far for me. Although, as I understand it, Diogenes did have a library and a workplace for his writing – even if nothing much has come down to us – but decidedly not inside his jar. I’ve just finished reading The Dangerous Life and Ideas of Diogenes the Cynic by Jean-Manuel Roubineau, a marvellous little book, and it has removed one or two ideas from the possibilities of a life well led. Not to be out done in challenges, I am now reading Jon Fosse’s Der andere Name which is something of a challenge. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2023, although that is not the reason for my buying these three volumes. They struck me as interesting, a good story line, something to break away from historical facts and philosophical thoughts for a few days or more. And interesting it has proven to be, following the thoughts of a single person as he goes about what appears to be his normal routine as an artist, in a continuous flow. That is: moving and jumping from one thought to the next, and back again, and roundabout, and all as one sentence. As far as I can see, the first volume, roughly four hundred and sixty four pages of text, does not have a single full stop. A reader is not going to find an ideal passage to stop for the night. I thought Proust was bad for long and convoluted sentences, but Fosse really does it masterfully. And this is only the first volume of three.

I need the break, though. Over the last few months I’ve been reading works on Erasmus, on world history, on the first proponents of Marxism, on the Creek Wars in what is now the United States. Some of it has been interesting, some exasperating. Reading a book about the life of someone which is all supposition and guesswork from possibilities and coincidences is hardly inspirational, or reassuring. And there has been little in the world of crime fiction to give me cause for a break. The one or two authors I am waiting for have published, but I am loath to spend twenty or thirty euro for a book which I know will be published in paperback form soon enough, and which will fit in better with my collection of their other works. And the good new titles coming out of various publishing houses are piling up. Admittedly my To Be Read Pile is somewhat depleted, down to the two further volumes of the Fosse work, and three other titles in English, but I am constantly seeing interesting titles and descriptions as I wander through local book stores – assiduously not buying anything right now – and marvel. And my To Buy Next list has a mere seven titles, since I have not included the books I saw in a shop yesterday, or last week and so on. And even then, the books I want to buy next come from only two authors, and are all in the Loeb Classical Library series.

Being at home all day has opened my eyes to a few things about this still-new neighbourhood. I am now more than well aware of the Kindergarten directly behind my bedroom and kitchen windows. Children did aerobics or some sort of sport to pop music in the sport hall right across from my living room this morning. People stop and talk on the street right next to my small terrace. I did not have any of this before, at least, not so close that I was aware of it. Bird song, cats and dogs were the main noises of my daily life before Bremen. Right now it is conversations on the street, church bells and the wind precursing another deluge of rain. Hearing small children walking to the Kindergarten entrance with their parents at eight in the morning, when you are still luxuriating in bed, can be a disturbing experience. They sound so close, especially if my bedroom window is open and, in point of fact, since the pathway is directly next to my window, they are close.

The broken foot, which I mentioned, is a bit of a thing. It is not a violent break, there was no attack against my foot, or heavy object that fell down and squashed it. Nothing like the break of my right foot, when it was squeezed together in the front of my bus. This is, apparently, a stress fracture, encompassing three smaller bones, and the larger bone from my big toe back towards the heel. There is no pain, aside from a slight contortion to my knee from walking slightly differently – and it was my knee which caused me to go to the doctor is the first place, not my foot. My house doctor too a look, then recommended I find a specialist, a process which took two months as, being a new patient, there is a waiting list. Once you’re in, it all goes very much quicker. The new doctor took a quick look and recommended I have an MRT, which meant another appointment and another waiting list. After the MRT I returned to the second doctor for the diagnosis, which had already been given to me by the MRT doctor, and that was three months gone. This doctor then writes me off sick, which is something of a joke, since I have been working with my broken foot for the while three month waiting period, and gives me a new appointment a month later, when they want to do x-rays and check the porous nature of my bones. My sick note is, however, for the entire month from the last appointment to my x-ray appointment. I will be perfectly honest and admit: I can live with this. No pain, and a minimum of a month at home during a time when I have a lot to do at home, and the weather should be relatively good.

Looking out of the window now, as the clouds gather, the wind falls, and the conversation from two women turns to shopping bargains: rain is on the way again. After all the massive headlines about the heatwaves, and each month is the hottest month on record, ever, we get the other side of climate change, the side which climate change deniers use to bolster their own arguments: it is cold and raining. The people who are still stuck of the idea of Global Warming as a main theme, which is happening too, and devastating other countries with 50°C temperatures and so on, but not so much us. A few years ago, and probably ignored or forgotten by most, there were reports that Germany could set its mind on being a cooler, wetter land in the future: climate change. Well, we are certainly seeing that this month. Many fields are still flooded from the winter and spring rains, and the farmers are, of course, complaining – which they seem to do no matter what the weather. That said, I enjoyed the asparagus season this year, having this delicacy at least five times with various sauces and vegetables, as well as twice as a soup, and once as part of a starter in a restaurant. My delight in cooking has returned in full force, and I’ve even begun to compose my own cookery file, for purely private use. A much smaller kitchen than I had before, and the cooking facilities are limited as much as the space is limited, but it is fun again. Quiche, if you were wondering, is the go-to recipe for busy weeks: a good sized quiche can last for three meals, unless I really stretch it out and eat quarters rather than thirds. And asparagus with new potatoes, hollandaise sauce and sprouts is not that difficult a menu.

New partner, seems a strange thing to write now! We have a very strong, stable relationship filled with conversation, trips to all sorts of places and fun. I think the decision to remain in our own apartments is a big plus, and the plan to remain with our previous lifestyles, working our meetings around that rather than the other way about was a wise choice. There are many things we cannot share, but which we can accept as being a part of the other’s personality or life, and not being constantly together increases the interest in conversation. The relationship has also opened up many new possibilities, especially on the leisure side of life, with new bars and restaurants to explore. It is much easier to go to somewhere you have never been before if you are not going there alone. Moral support, or whatever. If the food or ambience is bad, at least you have someone interesting to talk to until it is all over, and someone to commiserate with afterward. Fortunately we have not had that experience yet, although there have been a few times when a good place was simply a little boring, when the right crowd weren’t there that evening. And, a very First World Problem: going to a restaurant and ordering Tagliatelle, only to be served Fettucini can be a fun opener into talking about, well, first world problems and prejudices.

I shall capture my post person today, if they don’t get rained off, and express a desire for my post to be delivered both to the fright address and within a reasonable period of time. I have a blueberry muffin ready to hand, as a small incentive seems to work wonders these days. Hopefully it will work, and we will be able to get our correspondence back on track.