Sunday, 23 November 2008
Living in the Caribbeans: Finding Accomodation Part II
The next day, I am woken by Pergolesi's violin concert in C minor sung at a blasting two-hundred thousand decibels by the colonies of critters which have settled right outside my window. I wake up bleary-eyed to find that there's a pleasant sun slanting through the window. It really looks like a wonderful day. And hearing the local fauna, despite their choral impetus, has an energising effect on my mood, so I get up and head for the shower, jolly. I step in there, turn the taps and I'm already about to join the critters in the morning-song rehearsals when a frightful, animalesque screech so loud you could have heard it through the bombings of Naples explodes right by me. I jump away in stunned surprise - it sounds like two Tyrannosaurs are fighting in the original King Kong movie - when it turns out to be the shower itself: prior to ejecting the water, the tubes are screeching and groaning in agony like the legions of Lucifer after they're thrown out of heaven. I wait a moment for it to subside, but that is to no avail. I take a shower which feels like I'm in an Iron Maiden concert.
Later, walking out into the sunlight, sunglasses and beret on my head, I am feeling a firm resolution take nest within my spirit. I meet the two Germans from the day before, and together we head towards the general office to get our academic bureaucracy sorted as the resolution evolves in form. We climb the stair and manage to avoid a cardiac arrest when it starts creaking middle-way, then walk on the stony streets, by the low white buildings, towards our destination.
When we get there, I take a look around myself before going in. Now that it is day, I have a moment to realise just how breathtakingly beautiful the island is. Despite the run-down conditions of the university which lend it the appearance of a pirate settlement abandoned after a successful assault, there is a thriving, natural atmosphere – in the palm-trees and the plants cracking through the cement – which the rows of neatly-trimmed trees in English universities have never managed to convey. The sun is blazing in the bluest skies I've ever seen, and the clouds fly by in a form which later turned out to be the only one available to them in the Caribbeans: no high-altitude sheets to interfere with the blue, no greyness, just soft, gigantic swirls of blinding white, constantly and rapidly floating away and changing shape. If ever there was a part of the world which a person could have called Eden, this was the one.
We're about to step into the office, when all three of us arrest ourselves to stare at the lane in front of us. The reason for this is immediately pointed out by the girl.
'Look,' she says, 'there's a rat.'
'That's not a rat,' I respond. 'That's a fucking bear.' As with all animals in Martinique, this particular rodent seems to have been on a strict diet of vitamins for the past five years. He could well be Hulk Hogan if he were only wearing a yellow shirt and looked a little more stupid. He stands on his hind legs - an imposing vision - until he sees us. He then assumes an expression not of fear but of polite shock: how can these people be so rude as to get in his way? Really no manners at all in this university nowadays, are there? It then scuttles - gallops thunderingly more like it - away in disgust.
The resolution I was feeling within me earlier has, by now, passed from being firm to becoming concrete. That's it, I tell myself. The bureaucracy is going to have to wait. I've got to find myself a house before anything.