On the last day of the summer holidays the sky – which has been clear and blue all week in the Uckermark – is overcast. Down by the shore of the Kölpinsee the mood is melancholy. Starlings flock around an old cherry bush. In the fields cranes stand in groups, preparing for a long journey. We are heading south too, to Berlin, but it won’t take long and we are stretching out the last day of summer, pausing here and there to see what we can see.
At the small beach a man stands by the firepit with a couple of plastic bags, eyeing us suspiciously. He is the only person we have seen out on this Sunday morning, aside for a couple of car drivers. We walk down to the jetty to look out past the reeds and across the choppy waters of the lake. I can feel him watching us, his eyes moving from us to our car and its strange numberplate. We are a long way from Nordrhein-Westfalen, it is true. But none of us are from there and the car does not give us away, indeed it only complicates matters in the small villages of northeastern Brandenburg.
We retreat to the vehicle and as we do the man begins to undress. He is here for his Sunday swim, and four strangers on the jetty had left him feeling exposed. So he just waited, before dropping his trousers and pulling up his trucks. As we climb into the car, ready to follow the unpaved track back up to the road, we watch him through the rear window as he strides out into the water.
As we drive south, through the Uckermark to Barnim and then the city limits of Berlin there is very little on the roads. The first trees are starting to turn, and in the wind leaves fall down onto the road in front of us as we drive beneath the canopy. The end of the summer always feels like the end of the year for me – and my feelings can often be mixed. It is been this way since I was a kid. The end of summer meant return to school, the start of a new football season… more a new year than January ever could be. I find myself at the end of the summer in a much more reflective mood than I ever am on the 31st December. It often feels like the summer trip is when decisions are taken. When steps are made. What’s your September resolution? As we drive through Brandenburg I have a think, not yet ready to the commit.
A light drizzle starts to fall that will, by 5pm, turn into a proper rain shower. It feels like simultaneously the last storm of the summer and the first of the autumn showers. This year the end of summer has made me feel more melancholy than excited about potential new beginnings. Once back home we get out the school bag and lay out the uniform. I talk to Lotte about the summer, about our trips to Leipzig and England. About how long ago her last day of school now feels, when the summer holiday stretched out in front of us. But Lotte is not like Calvin, depairing to Hobbes about every Sunday evening let alone the last days of summer. She can’t wait to get back. So it is just me then.
The next morning she is excited. To see her friends and to discover what awaits her in the new school year. And the sun is shining again and my own mood lifts. I remember that the melancholy end of summer always moves into the optimism of the autumn. The teams have only played a handful of games; there is plenty of time to turn things around. Now is the time to think over those new ideas, to work out what is next over the coming twelve months. I need to think like Lotte. And anyway, as she tells me cheerfully, it will be soon be summer again…
Words & Pictures: Paul Scraton