Bullshit! There was plenty of colour in this country
I remember red, juice tomatoes growing in our friend’s courtyard, steaming white dumplings the size of footballs (okay, white isn’t a colour, just stay with me) the green car our friends drove us around with, the soft tabby fur of their cat I cuddled.
All in all, my imagination of this country being literally grey like I had seen on the map in my classroom turned out to be just that, a fantasy. The truth was, even the TV was in colour – although there were fewer stations on and the Sandman’s beard looked different.
Of course I didn’t understand why we couldn’t go out to a Chinese restaurant (there were none) or why my mum and our friends preferred not to talk outside on the street (to prevent neighbours from eaves dropping).
As a seven-year old all these Cold War implications meant nothing to me. What I did comprehend was the pride in our friends dad’s eyes when he spoke about his car, a Trabant or “Trabbi”. He said that not many people were as fortunate as him. Only limited numbers were built and sold. He had waited almost 15 years for his.
The family was joking that right after their children’s birth they applied for a car so that they’d be able to give them a vehicle to their 18th birthday as a gift. Or maybe they weren’t joking? I don’t know.
I understood that it was a precious item and he was proud to have one. I also understood the look on my mother’s face when we were driving in it. It was a mixture of amusement and anxiety. The car was rattling and shaking like a soapbox.
I remember the games we played in the family’s living room, the one room in the entire house that was heated by a giant cockle stove. The dad kept shovelling coals into it and the room went from pleasantly warm to steaming hot. Everyone took off their jumpers and cheeks turned rosy then red.
We did visit the grandma, who started this friendship and I looked at the asparagus field trying to imagine how she had caught the balloon there, but there was just brown earth waiting for another planting season.