Why can’t I just stay in bed?

Why can’t I just stay in bed?

It’s the weekend, in case you hadn’t noticed. It’s also damp, cold and dark in this part of Germany, and my wife and I are both pretty much exhausted from the whole rat-race which is life, which includes work, Christmas preparations, mad bosses and some fuse in some dark recess somewhere blowing and plunging our bathroom into darkness. We decided we deserved a sleep-in this morning.

Well, you know what life is like. Life, generally, waits until you’ve given up lemonade before giving you lemons. And so it was pretty much inevitable that, having spent a fitful night dreaming of being told by a doctor that I had cancer and three weeks to live (go on, you try sleeping after that), I eventually dozed off only to be awoken by the phone, which rang twice before stopping.

Another half hour later, the phone rang again, only this time it didn’t stop, so I had to answer it. It was my mother, who had chosen this particular morning to phone up “just to see how you are”, which is the first time I can ever remember her doing anything like that. My mother, I will say, is not slow on the uptake and guessed, from the fact that I was sounding like a grumpy bear, that she’d got me out of bed, and left me to return thence, wondering if there was some other, more important, reason for her phoning (apparently not, since she hasn’t phoned again).

And so I went back to bed and nodded off, dreaming of my mother phoning up to break the news that I had three weeks to live, when the siren went off.

This is a feature of life in small-town Germany. Even though volunteer firefighters have pagers and other hi-tech means of communication at their disposal, The Siren Has To Be Sounded. It’s a real siren, like those World War 2 sirens, and it is big and loud. It is also about 300 yards from our bedroom window.

Our village is fairly quiet and uneventful, and there are relatively few fires. There are, however, at this time of year, a few road accidents to keep the fire brigade busy, or at least stop them from getting out of practice. As far as I can see, the reason they sound the siren is not actually to alert the firefighters, but to broadcast the fact that something interesting has happened. If they can justify scrambling a helicopter from Aschaffenburg, so much the better.

As I said, those sirens are loud. And by “loud”, I mean loud. Windows shake, doors rattle, and dogs are so scared they don’t even bark: they just rise vertically, like a Harrier jump jet, hover for a split second, return to earth and quietly have hysterics.

The upshot of all this is that after another hour or so being woken up by dreams of sirens being sounded to tell me I had three weeks left to live, I abandoned all hope of a decent sleep-in and got up.

Upon which, of course, a restful silence descended on our village and my wife dozed peacefully for another two hours.