After dinner I ventured out of the hotel. At the main road I had a binary decision to make; go left or go right. I chose ‘right’. About a hundred yards into this adventure I walked past a sign pointing back towards the city centre and the direction I had come from. I ignored it and continued on my chosen path.
This took me past a small shop and post office which was still open at nearly nine in the evening. Past a fish and chip shop fully lit up by naked fluorescent tube lights shining through the steamed up windows that failed to silhouette any customers waiting to collect their paper packages of food. In the distance there were some more bright lights but to get there I had to walk past houses and blocks of flats facing on to the road. Mistakenly I thought the lights were from a shopping centre but they were from various car dealerships. As soon as I realised this I turned and retraced my steps.
People walked past me with eyes cast to the pavement as if looking for a lost pound coin or winning lottery ticket that would have taken them away from the damp and chilling night. I even stepped out of the way of a cyclist who didn’t even acknowledge my small courtesy.
Off to my left was a narrow residential road lined with wheelie bins waiting to disgorge their contents into the rose wagon the next morning. Littering the street were cars parked half on and half off the road making pedestrian passage very restricted. No doubt in twelve hours time the cars would be gone and the rose wagon could empty the bins without hindrance past more blocks of flats, maisonettes and houses held together by communal walls.
Ground floor rooms that were lit mostly had net curtains, blinds or absolutely no curtains at all. On display were rooms cluttered with ironing boards, piles of clothes, TV’s and large furniture. Hardly any books lining shelves, in fact I don’t think I saw any. On one ironing board there was a steam iron puffing its clouded moisture into the air impatiently waiting to get on with its sole function in life. In all of these rooms there were no people.
One ground floor room was in darkness. The window was open. As I walked past the red glow of a cigarette dragged an arm out of the window and flicked some ash off. A couple of steps further on I picked up a sweet burnt aroma that was not the usual dry smell of burnt tobacco from a Rothmans, Marlborough or Embassy.
Back to hotel room where I flicked through the range of TV channels and then settled back to watch Brian Cox’s programme on the universe while I stretched out on the bed. I saw the section on the swimming pigs somewhere out in the Caribbean, fell asleep and then woke up watching a U2 gig.
Brian Cox had been describing how life on earth was in all probability the result of an accidental meeting and conjoining of two amoebic cells some 3.8 billion years ago. Strange hotel, strange room and slightly befuddled from a deep but short sleep I had trouble assimilating how Bono had become part of this Darwinian progression before realising I had been asleep for about an hour. I know Bono has done some good charitable work but surely not enough to warrant a mention in programmes about the universe.
I settled for Radio 3 and some Mozart for the rest of the evening.