I thought it might be interesting to write about some details of my everyday life now.
My flat is a studio, one good-sized room with a bed and a kitchen at the end, with attached bathroom. The kitchen windows open out onto a wire cage, which prevents the birds coming in (in theory), and can be used for hanging laundry. When I first arrived a cat raced in through the front door of the flat from the corridor, and leapt out from the window, through the wire cage. The pigeon that came in the other day arrived through the missing square of window in the top right corner, which I have now covered with newspaper to deter him. My view is westwards, of other buildings, many of them in the process of construction. A block of flats is being built directly opposite, and has long metal poles stuck into the cement of the unfinished walls, poking straight up and ready for the next bit of wall to be built upwards from this framework.
The lifts for the building are those rather charming old lifts with the cage doors, with an inner and outer door, both of which have to be closed before the lift will move. There are two lifts on different sides of the stairwell, and one operates during the day and the other at night – a system arranged by a sign on a peg, which is switched from one lift to the other to let you know which one is working at any particular time. This notice is only on the ground floor though, and from the floors above you cannot know when the lifts have changed. Downstairs on the ground floor there are little shops: a Xerox stationers’, which also has a couple of computers connected to the internet for people to use (although the connection is very poor), and men ironing in a couple of rooms, and other men making and repairing wooden items on the floor around the lifts and stairs. There are a couple of stray dogs who almost permanently sleep on the paving just outside the building’s front opening, which has no door but is just an open part of the building.
Outside my building there is Guru Nanak Park. At the corner of my lane there is a deep pit where some construction work is going on; I have to remember its presence when I return in the dark! It leads on to another little lane, which connects to a main street, Turner Road, and there is a nice bookshop very close by.
Last week my neighbour’s younger brother got married, and there was a lot of group singing in their flat for several nights leading up to it, and increasing amounts of decorations and lights being put up. On the day itself, the outside lobby of the building was strewn with row upon row of white fairy lights, and a brass and steel band played very loudly in the road. The band members were dressed in red jackets and white trousers in a military style uniform, and I was sitting in the park when they arrived. When I went around, I spoke to my neighbour, and a couple of decorated wedding cars and auto-rickshaws pulled up to transport the relatives. Two groups of women in sarees were dancing in the street to the music of the band.
I went for a walk to the promenade at Bandstand, to watch the sun sinking into the sea. As it set, the sun glowed with such brilliant red fire that it seemed to bleed out into the surrounding sky. I watched it slide down into the horizon, disappearing beyond the sea.
It was over; the sun had slipped from the world. It was not dark in the least though, just a kind of wan, fading daylight and the blue sky turning white. A half moon hung directly overhead, beside the first star. The moon seemed to be growing brighter every moment now that the sun had gone.
The promenade has a Bollywood ‘Walk of the Stars’, with handprints and signatures beneath the names of actors.
I visited an interesting and pretty church (St Andrew’s at the end of Hill Road). It is entirely white and has a little rounded chapel beside it. All the gravestones in the churchyard and underfoot at the approach to the church are flat on the ground, not standing up. They are like tombstones, yet not raised but flat in the earth. The church is lit up by bright projecting lights, making everyone’s shadows look very long and phantom-like in the darkness. As I drifted among the other dark figures and long, flitting shadows in the churchyard, the blindingly bright eyes of lights set into the ground, and the pitch black sky above meant you could see no-one’s faces: everyone was only a silhouette.
The church’s sides and front are open, so you can see through one side, into the church and out the other side, by standing near one of the openings. The inside of the main church looks like a normal Catholic church, except there are about thirty fans whirring on long cords from the ceiling. A service was starting, and some familiar hymns reverberated out through the open church front into the night, but I did not go in, I only drifted about on the periphery, entranced by the shadows and lights.