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Having a quiet walk in Coventry and swimming pigs

Coddiwompling around Brandon (I think) near Coventry

By Alan RussellPublished 2 months ago 6 min read

By the time I checked into a hotel on the outskirts of Coventry I had been travelling and working with the same group of people for about four weeks. Travelling together in the same car, working in the same offices, staying at the same hotels, and sharing meals. Sometimes, for me at least, it is just essential for the preservation of my own sanity to break away and do something on my own. A chance to take in some fresh air, stretch my legs, look back on the day and think about home.

This was one such evening.

After dinner I ventured out of the hotel. At the main road I had a binary decision to make. To go left or to go right? Turning left would take me towards Coventry. The city that Daniel Defoe described as ‘a large and populous city’. Turning right would take me towards a crossroads that was so close I could see that from there I had three directions to choose from.

At the crossroads there was a small parade of shops. The usual open all hours convenience store was still open, a small hardware store, a post office and a fish and chip shop. Its bare fluorescent lights shone through the steamed-up windows giving off a milky light. Inside a few customers were waiting for the packages of food. Cod and chips, jumbo sausage, and chips; all crusted with salt and soaked in vinegar. Sometimes, I think it is only the salt and vinegar that makes the meal and not the potatoes, fish, or meat.

While I had been working during the day I asked the people I was with where they came from in terms of their commute to work. Not one of them said that they lived in Coventry. They all drove in from the villages and surrounding small towns. Even my barber in Ringwood is from Coventry and hasn’t been back since he moved to the New Forest nearly fifty years ago. He doesn’t even support Coventry City out of recognition of his home city.

My work involved showing end users of a database how to use it effectively while at the same time carrying out an audit on the entries they had already added. My two colleagues were what you would call “absolute whizzes” with spreadsheets and writing formula to improve their workings. I was not and felt pangs of imposter’s syndrome. While continuing my walk a car rushed past me hitting a puddle and splashing its contents against me. The shock of the cold water washed away the syndrome completely.

There were some bright lights further on. It didn’t take me long to work out that they were lighting up a car dealership, so I turned and started to retrace my steps. Off to my left was a narrow residential street lined with wheelie bins. Those ugly repositories of consumer waste and the visually polluting scourge of urban Britain. Cars and vans added to the jumble of obstructions blocking the pavements so several times I had no choice but to walk in the road.

Most of the ground floor rooms had lights on whose beams were filtered through net curtains or blinds. Some had no such window furnishings and lay bare their interiors to passers-by. Not that there were many on an October night and those that were had their eyes fixed intently on the ground in front of their feet. Through the windows I saw TV’s that were on, piles of laundry on tables, ironing boards with irons waiting patiently to get on with their sole purpose in life but no people. It was as if some apocalyptic event had visited this one street in suburban Coventry and whisked everyone away without a trace. Or maybe they were in the queue at the fish and chip shop?

One ground floor room was in darkness. A window was open and in the blackness I could see the red glow of a cigarette end. A youngster having a crafty fag while their parents were out getting the fish and chips. A husband whose wife has banned him from smoking in the house who is chancing his luck on a technicality. That is if he leans out of the window having a drag then technically he is not smoking in the house. A few steps further and the smell of the cigarette smoke caught up with me. It wasn’t the usual dry smell. Instead, it was a distinctive almost sweet smell. No wonder they were inhaling in the darkness.

A few minutes later I stepped through the baronial doors of the hotel. The sudden change in temperature from cold to an enveloping warmth caused my glasses to steam up. I was walking in a thick fog through which I could just make out where the stairs were and the archway leading into the bar. No one called my name. I guessed they had all gone to their rooms.

In my hotel room I stretched out on the bed and flicked through the TV channels settling on Brian Cox’s programme on the universe. I saw the section on swimming pigs in the Caribbean and tried to work out their relevance to the meaning of life and the universe without success. I waited for Brian Cox to explain the link, fell asleep and woke halfway through a recording of a U2 gig.

Time, space and physics for a Monday night in Coventry. Why would Brian Cox have U2 on the same program as the swimming pigs in an effort to explain life and the universe? This was far too much cognitive dissonance for me on a Monday that had started at five in the morning. I found Radio 3 on the TV and settled for a Mozart concert, fell asleep to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and was woken up by a voice announcing the midnight news. The Ebola virus was causing enough concern to be mentioned by WHO, the usual conflicts rumbling away in the Middle East and how the database of J P Morgan’s clients had been compromised. There was no news about Coventry, wheelie bins or strange smelling cigarette smoke.

I switched off the radio and the lights and lay in the dark silence. My mind raced in its efforts to link swimming pigs in the Caribbean, life, the universe and U2 but failed miserably. My efforts were weakened by the fact that no matter how many first nights I have away from home I never sleep well. I then wondered if that failure was caused by what I had passively inhaled earlier or if my failure was caused by not passively inhaling deeply enough? Whatever, it was a disturbed night’s sleep.

Oct 14


About the Creator

Alan Russell

When you read my words they may not be perfect but I hope they:

1. Engage you

2. Entertain you

3. At least make you smile (Omar's Diaries) or

4. Think about this crazy world we live in and

5. Never accept anything at face value

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