I have just returned from Birmingham. It was, for many reasons, a deeply surreal experience.
Having only one day earlier returned from India, I left feeling quite jet-lagged. The train was relaxing and my suitcases has wheels, so when I got off the train and saw a sign saying Hotel I thought it was a short walk to the Hilton. I started in the direction of the arrow and pulled my two cased behind me.
The corridors were huge, high, wide, long and totally empty. They stretched for miles and miles and eternity. It was totlally deserted. Not a person anywhere. Just me walking through the NEC complex with two red suitcases.
At one point I passed a pile of sleeping builders. One of them opened an eye as I passed.
Later there was a young girl slumped over a cigarette.
After a while I found myself in the open. Roads with odd names. No people, just great long roads with no pavements and passing huge empty hangars. One had the front open and a big builder with a huge belly and a luminous jacket who just stared at me. I asked him where the HIlton was and he pointed in the direction I was going.
Every now and then a car would roar past. A rather pretty red Landrover flew past and I swore at him. My arms were getting tired and I started to feel vulnerable.
To what? Pygmies perhaps. There was nothing.
An age later I arrived at a barrier. A woman in a box was chatting to someone in a car. I waited and waited and when she had decided she had finished chatting she turned to me a raised an eyebrow, asking me, with the eyebrow, what I wanted. Her reply was to point at the hedge on the opposite side of the road.
I climbed over the hedge and under a railing and dragged myself, sweating and bemused up the driveway of the Hilton.
I had just returned from India. A place where you are never alone. There is never stillness. Someone is always everywhere. Had I done a similar walk in Jaipur I would have had children, widows, dogs, tuk tuk drivers and rickshaw wallahs all tearing along behind me. I would have been tugged at, offered tea, laughed at, discussed and smiled at by an endless series of people living on the side of the road.
I think I prefer the Indian experience.
But Birmingham was great. Well the Hilton and all that transpired inside it was great. I taught lots of yoga, met wonderful people and loved it.