Saturday, 19 March 2016

Time runs out in Dusseldorf

The Burns Art Hotel – time to check out
With business tied up by just gone 3pm I embarked upon another long, long walk across the city. It took, like yesterday, just over an hour, and the weather was a little colder. I reached the hotel around 1630hrs and then, after a little bit of faffing about with my suitcase, I bade farewell to the Burns Art Hotel and hit the streets.

Late afternoon/early evening is a funny time of the day because it's a good couple hours off dinner and it's too late for a snack, like, say, a cup of tea and a millionaire's shortbread. In fact, that's something I never really got together while I was out in Dusseldorf. I never found a cosy place to drink tea, munch on something sweet and read my book – The Moth, a collection of short, true stories, some good, some a little disappointing, but an ideal book to read in a Starbucks, if I could find one.

I'm always looking, but never finding, peace. That's what I need more than anything else: a bit of peace and quiet. A  cup of tea, an almond croissant and some time to sit and read the papers or a book or both. Coffee shops are the best place to be in this respect and, dare I say it, Costa, Caffé Nero or Starbucks fit the bill, especially mid-to-late afternoon in an American city. I remember a good occasion of this sort in Indianapolis a couple of years ago and one in Chicago last October – both courtesy of Starbucks.

On Wednesday I found myself in Dusseldorf's old town – or Alt Stadt – trying to find somewhere that fitted the bill. I eventually stumbled upon a Starbucks, but it was getting round to lunch time and I didn't want to start ruining things by eating cookies or whatever just prior to tucking into lunch. Not that I should have worried. On that particular day I'd already walked for what seemed like miles and then I walked round and round the Alt Stadt, not even window shopping, just walking and that's how the Starbucks came into the picture. But as I said, I passed on it and walked a fair old way back to the street where my favourite restaurant is located. But there was no room at the inn. I've written about this – how I went to the Thai restaurant instead – so I won't go on about it.

Stumbled across this sculpture in the Alt Stadt
So Friday afternoon's kind of similar, but in a sense the other way around. It was as if somebody had one of those huge old sand timers – what are they called? You know what I'm talking about, an hour glass, that's it. It was as if somebody had taken an hour glass, turned it upside down and I had to fit everything into an increasingly smaller space of time. And I was a little tired too. You would be had you just walked all the way across town like I had. I stopped off at a few shops on the way, like I did on Thursday. I bowled into a supermarket looking for God knows what. White hot chocolate, German tea, German breakfast cereal, a bottle of wine, but I didn't buy anything. Then I went into one of those posh but weird shops that sell odd stuff like upmarket-looking shaving brushes, pens, clocks – "men's stuff" – and I ended up trying some aftershave.

The long and the short of it is this: I ended up at the airport miles too early. Like four hours too early. I couldn't even check in so I found a restaurant and ordered tuna and penne and one of those big, balloon-like glasses of red wine and sat there reading The Moth. And then I made the mistake of ordering another. I say 'mistake', it wasn't so much a mistake, but I could have done without it.

Dinner here was not good, but not bad either
I went through security, had to take my laptop out of my suitcase and endure all the hassles – laptop in it's own tray, coat in another tray, suitcase in another, it's such a fuss, but it's all for a good cause – mine and my fellow passengers' safety. Once on the other side, time flew past and soon there was only 30 minutes before my flight was due to take off. But of course it never took off on time. Everyone was standing around at the gate and there was some kind of delay, but soon we all filed on board. I had seat 3a so I was soon sitting there, seat belt on, reading The Moth again. But other passengers delayed things. We eventually got off the ground about 30 minutes late. I hate night flights. You can't see anything. It was pretty smooth all the way over and having already enjoyed two glasses of wine I didn't order anything from the hostess.

We made good on lost time and hit the tarmac at Gatwick around 2122hrs. A cab journey followed and I was home in time for the news. Iain Duncan Smith  – otherwise known as IDS – had resigned from the government over Osborne's plan to cut benefits for the disabled, while giving the rich a tax cut. What a fucking bastard! Actually, they're both bastards. IDS is a bastard too, but I understand that his resignation letter is going to cause Osborne a few problems. Some have called for his resignation. Not good when you consider that Osborne has prime ministerial ambitions.

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