A traffic derive
Upper Parliament Street is the northern wing of the ring. Where it meets Mad Marian Way there is a green and well-shaven roundabout, with some red flowers here and there. Impossible to access it: the constant traffic runs angry and fast, faster than my legs anyway. Facing the roundabout the brown IBM building, horizontal, 2 floors of parking space and then office space. Opposite a bank. Opposite an NCP private parking building. Carland.
I'm not sure how I've ended up here, I suppose that's the beauty of a derivé but at present I'm seeing nothing of it. This is a place that I've always observed from the safe height of a double decker. Now I'm on my own two feet and it's scary. From here a big road departs towards suburbia, towards Derby, Derby Road. I take it, I have no choice. The few pedestrians walking this way are forced to stay on the path they've chosen at the beginning. Stay where you are. You wanted the other side? Tough shit. You've got one crossing then nothing. Free style crossing is impossible or at its best suicidal: metal barriers and violent traffic complete the job. I walk up the steep slope; the other side has got some shops, this one nothing, apart from Save the Children.
I've had enough and I turn left into a quiet road and end up on another roundabout with no traffic. In fact it's a fenced circle of green grass. Just plain grass with a few trees on its edge and a pleasant iron fence around it. Closed. Why? Is it an historic roundabout? Do they exist such things?
Here a traffic jam took place in 1935
Doesn't make sense. It's a perfect circle, not a bronze statue, not a bench, not a fountain but grass. Simply grass.
A disused roundabout. I must walk around it. Impossible. The road that runs around it is only partially open, and half of it is a car park. Cars are parked perpendicular to the fence, one next to the other, their noses touching the iron fence. Impossible to walk the gap in between. Impossible to walk behind the cars, I'd be in the middle of the road, and I wouldn't even see the grass.
You can't draw a circle in a city and then prevent people to walk around it. This is architectural sadism. Cars, cars everywhere, and if not cars then walls, fences and gates. Pedestrians, stay put on your designated path, the footpath, all the rest is a no-go zone. I could try and jump the fence but it's covered of vandal-proof grease and I've had enough of getting dirty for them. I can still do my walk jumping from bonnet to bonnet.
Bum, bum bum bum from one bonnet to the other, some give in under my weight, most of them don't. I walk my circle as if the cars where not there and I think: "they shouldn't be there".
Then I think: "What if their owner comes out, what do I say to them, your car shouldn't be here? Maybe I'll just kick them as well".
Bum bum and bum, I've done my round
and jump form the last bonnet. Nobody around. From the Theatre facing the roundabout two
people are staring at me from behind the glass door. Usherettes. I step towards them
pulling an hard face. I was expecting an argument after my walk and now I've got some
adrenaline to discharge. They look at me nervously. They also look over their shoulder. I
slow down. I can see two figures walking down the stairs of the theatre. One of them is
well dressed and visibly angry. He stops just outside the theatre and looks at a Jaguar
parked on the roundabout. Then he looks at me. First the Jaguar and then me. The
usherettes are talking to him. He's speechless for a bit then shouts:
He is shocked, shaking with anger, he roars to one small usherette: "Go and call somebody!". I think it's time for me to go. I start walking away but then see over my shoulder two big guys coming out of the theatre and running towards me. They are huge and look like bouncers. Shit. I run as fast as I can but I'm out of breath. I'm back on Derby Road and I've got no choice but to run uphill. I can't do it. The road is straight, long and the two monster will be round the corner in a second. Next to me is the stone fence of the Catholic Church. I jump it and make it for the door. It's open, thanks god it's open.
They might have seen me coming in. I look for a place to hide as Churches are no longer a sanctuary for those amoral bastards. It's a big Church with lots of little rooms. The organ is playing but I can't see who is playing it. I walk through the benches looking all around me, then I enter a small side chapel and sit down. My heart is a drum machine gone mad, my legs are not there anymore, I'm not made for this kind of effort. I see Baby Jesus in the hands of Madonna smiling at me. I think, "laugh, laugh, that mummy has made some gnocchi".
Somebody touches my shoulder. Shit. I jump up
with fear. A small old lady, crazy eyes, orangish-grey hair has got 50p under my nose:
I look at her. She's got such a strong Irish
accent I barely understood she wants something. I pull out of my pockets a handful of
coins, paper, keys, bottle tops and flyers. I'd like to ask her why she does bother
putting an offer, or why she doesn't just put 50p, but I don't and I just give her all my
coins, dropping them in her hands. She keeps staring straight at me. She caress me with
one hand and pulls her face more towards me:
I just look at her in the eyes. She smiles: "I hate them, cars. You're a good man, God bless you" She turns around, drops her coins in the thing, light up a candle and goes down on her knees.
"Bloody Irish" I think,
smiling inside, and then walk out to the noise of the murderous traffic. It's rush hour.