So perhaps late one evening, as you go to close your bedroom window, you suddenly catch the scent of the night air – delicate sea-mist, wintery woodsmoke and the slight cold metallic tang of cordite that always thrills you with excitement.
And perhaps, instead of shaking off the restless impulse, drawing the curtains and going to bed … you pause for a moment, and realise that you’re not tired, and it’s a mild night, and you still have your shoes on, and in fact you can imagine yourself cycling down to the seafront under the low-hanging half moon.
And maybe you just go for it.
This is what I encountered, and what each moment made me think of:
- An almighty crash from an armoured van outside a large, anonymous hotel – as if something was going drastically wrong for the Ocean’s Eleven crew.
- I was accosted by two creatures of the night, teetering on high heels, clad in miniskirts and leopard-print jackets. When I replied politely they swiftly turned away – perhaps, with my hair tied back and wearing a bike helmet and thick coat I could be mistaken for a punter. Or perhaps they were just revellers who’d lost their way.
- A solitary tai chi sensei glided through his routine, his body tracing elegant calligraphy across the lawns.
- Couples lay scrunched in pebbles on the beach talking softly, the kind of deep, wine-infused conversations you end up embroiled in after hours of watching the waves.
- Rows of bathing boxes lit by occasional streetlights, looking like rows of snow-covered miniature Swiss chalets. The eerie amber glow of the lamps through the mist and the surreal symmetry of the low iron railings created a dreamlike atmosphere: I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Dumbledore step onto the cycle path and click his Put-Outer.
- A woman at her kitchen window, paused mid-way through washing up a plate, gazing unseeing into the middle distance as if trying to remember the next line of a song.
- At first I thought it was a rough sleeper bundled under a blanket, then a shaggy dog – but as I neared the shadows of a shelter, I realised I was only a couple of metres away from a confident urban fox, trotting along unafraid, its tail proudly held straight.
- Amid the forest of chairlegs stacked on tables in a closed cafe sat one tired man, his slumped shoulders illuminated by a lone lightbulb, gratefully holding a large teacup with both hands as delicately as one might lift a fallen bird’s nest.
- In a darkened tennis court a solitary beatboxer practised plosive spitting with a grinding bassline, the wind rattling the chainlink fencing like a wire-brushed cymbal.
- Finally, I momentarily broke up a fight between two well-spoken chaps who were fronting on the cycle path like plumped-up peacocks.
You notice small interactions more acutely in a different light, with the edge of risk that comes with adventuring after dark. Any one of these brief encounters could easily prompt a short story, at least – my former writing tutor Wendy would be proud!