Wolverhampton was not as I expected it to be. It was much smaller than I’d thought – a dark small town: it only took a few minutes to drive round, to see it all. I couldn’t believe how small it was, so I drove round it a few times thinking I’d find some more.
Soon I was on what appeared to be the road out of town, passing by a large flat space of grassland to the left, upon which there were various small buildings and huts extending in a seemingly haphazard manner as far as I could see from the road; there was no sign of life, and the buildings looked quite rudimentary and in a state of some disrepair – I imagined they’d been built around the time of the Second World War, because they reminded me of the kinds of structures you might find on an old military base (not that I’ve ever visited one), or perhaps they were the remnants of an industrial site, with whatever industry they housed now ended.
After a while – of being followed by a lone motorcyclist, whose headlight was on, though it wasn’t dark – I stopped off for a coffee. This café was unusual – partly because it appeared to be made entirely of wood, and partly because of the customers, if that’s who they were, because none of them were drinking anything, and indeed there didn’t seem to be anywhere in this room where you could get a drink.
I sat at a table and got out my pen and notepad. I noticed that all of the other customers were old: there weren’t many, five or six, sat at other tables, or wandering around. And they all seemed to be marked by some facial disfigurement, some sort of growth on a part of the face; and in one case – an old woman who reminded me of a woman I used to live next door to, a retired English teacher – there was a kind of tube-like growth from the throat area, so it looked like the larynx was emerging, though this couldn’t, I knew, be so. She was watching me, and soon she came towards me. She stood by the table and I looked up at her. She opened her mouth, and I thought she was going to scream – but then, from her eyes, I understood that she couldn’t scream, or speak, and I also understood that she was full of anger and that she wanted to grab the pen from my hand and stick it in my eye.