“You should always avail of the free coffee here,” Frau Bienkowski said. “Sure, why wouldn’t you?”
“I did,” I assured her. “I had a latte downstairs. It was delicious.”
“Good,” she said, looking at me closely. “Now, this is a dress I haven’t seen before! It’s lovely!”
“Thank you!” I said and admired her pastel-coloured floral two-piece.
Outside, thick snowflakes were swirling in the air. “It’s such a shame about the weather,” said Frau Bienkowski.”I still have to give you a tour of the grounds.”
“And you promised to tell me the story behind the funny little statue outside,” I said.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten!”
“How have you been sleeping?”
“Not well,” said Frau Bienkowski. “The other night I was awake the whole night. When the alarm went off at 7 o’clock I just couldn’t face getting up. So when the first lady came in, I had to think of some reason to stay in bed, so I told her I had a headache.”
“She asked me where,” Frau Bienkowski continued, smiling wickedly. “So I waved my hand about and said from front to back. Of course they got the doctor to check up on me. Then they took my blood. And of course I’d a perfect reading.”
I laughed. “Would you not tell them you’ve trouble sleeping?”
“Ach, I told you before, I haven’t been able to sleep since my husband died. And that was a long time ago.”
“Do you listen to the radio or watch TV in the evenings?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” said Frau Bienkowski. “I only watch television in the evenings. But listen to this; the other day a message to turn down my TV came from a lady all the way down the corridor. There was no way she could have heard it. I even asked my next-door neighbours if they could hear my TV. They couldn’t. Sure we are all hard of hearing here.”
“Difficult neighbours can be found everywhere!” I said.
“That they can,” she said. “Now, tell me about these CD players.”
“Well, I did a price check,” I told her. “And the ones with the decent speakers are about €50. The smaller ones with low quality speakers are around €30, but you wouldn’t be able to hear from bed if we plug it in over there.”
“We’ll have to wait so” said Frau Bienkowski. “I spent €12.50 on that coffee jug last week,” so I can’t afford to spend any more money for a while.”
Frau Bienkowski looked at the clock. “Be careful you’re not late for your night shift!”
“Don’t worry, I’ve my eye on the time,” I told her.
“How long are you working tonight?” she asked.
“Until 2.30 in the morning,” I said. “When I’m on my way home, you’ll be awake in bed, hopefully with the radio on.”
“Yes,” she said.