The sun has not yet risen as I wander the convoluted streets of a city I am sure I have visited before, perhaps when I was very young. Everything is dusty, as if dew never falls here.
The fact that not a soul is about adds to the unreality of the place, along with my faltering observation that there is no architecture here that dates from after about 1600. The overhanging gables hide the bleached sky, and my hunger drives me on. I am seeking a newsagent, as for some time my erratic sleeping habits have made me reliant on these early-opening meccas of providence. There is something definitely unwholesome about the ranges of snacks, the serried chocolate bars, the newspapers and the minority-interest pornographic magazines, but the newsagent has always seems to me a haven from the cold, empty-stomached early hours.
The city slumbers on, and my feet cross cobbled squares, take me along twisting alleys, and into the quiet lung of the urb. There is no sign of any kind of shop at all, let alone the reassuring florescent experience of an Eight-Till-Late or the like. The only commercial enterprise I pass is a shoemaker's shop, festooned with dusty boots and leather offcuts. Occasionally I glimpse the countryside, trapped between two desperately overleaning Tudor eaves.
Eventually I find what I am looking for - but, disappointingly, the stock consists of a range of Cook-In Sauces and three cans of sardines. I leave the shop with a can of sardines and return to the maze of streets, now almost certain that something is amiss.