Across our street, there is a red brick building, sitting several stories high on the opposite side of the canal. It was built not that long ago, although thinking now it must be at least ten, even before we left for America. It is social housing and doesn’t look that bad compared to other buildings built for the same purpose, as a consequence of the red brick.
All the inhabitants are way beyond retirement age, bundled together at the edge of the neighborhood they were born in.
The building blocks our horizon, as it sits right in front of our window, just across the canal. This means I cannot just look out of the window to see what kind of weather it is. I have to walk up close and strain my neck looking up at the strip of blue or grey or white cumulus, peeking over the top of the red brick to know if I should wear a jacket or not.
I have taken to watching my neighbors instead. It looks like they live in little boxes, as that is how the building was designed. They will pop in and out, sliding across their gallery. They seem to hang around the building a lot, enjoying each others company When it is warmish, they will be picking the leaves off their geraniums in the morning, watering them a bit and when that is done they will sit together on the windowsill, with their doors wide open, chatting. There is a bigger lady who talks more than the rest.
On really warm days they will migrate to the tiled strip alongside the water around about 11, pull out their plastic chairs and mill around in their sarongs and swimsuits. The bigger lady, still talking, manages to persuade two men to rub sunscreen into her wrinkled shoulders at the same time, one shoulder each, as another lady who has distanced herself with a lounger, looks on in distaste.
On these days I know no jacket is needed.
On medium days, I see the elderly gentlemen act with purpose in the storage spaces, down at the waterside, one often wearing a combination of yellow and pink, walking back and forth until their business is done.
Then a light jacket might be needed.
When it is cold, the weather people stay inside. Sometimes visitors come in thick coats and ring the doorbells. I will see the faces of the weather people pop up behind their curtains, cautiously looking out, before they let their visitors in.