A plethora of sounds and colors surrounds me. It’s the busiest time of the day. Main Street bustles with life; brimming with bright, buzzing energy. The crowd is dense. Concentrated office workers rush through the city with their heads down and phones in their hands. A dog barks, frustrated at being tied to the lamppost.
Smiling people shake their cans, raising money for charity. Generous passers-by are adorned with stickers in exchange for their kind donations. A screaming child cries out for lunch, trying to get out of his pram. Store vendors hand out free scented samples to passers-by. A delivery truck screams. He’s an impatient driver who carefully tries to cut through the hustle and bustle.
The herd of tourists follows their guide, shouting, unaware of the vehicle behind them. A street performer dances to deafening, muffled music from a huge loudspeaker.
I smell fried churros in the nearby cafe. A cacophony of voices, languages and generations fills the street. Friends embrace and chat with lively warmth and joy. Church bells ring in the distance, drowned out by everything else.
A panting calm hovers over the motionless night. The sky is black and inky, filled with a handful of stars. A row of lampposts line each side of the cobbled street. They stand like silent and solemn soldiers; wearing their hanging baskets like shoulder pads. Their beacon of warm yellow light illuminates the deserted street. I hear the quiet hum of the street cleaner in the distance. A cyclist passes alone, her wheels making a slight creak on the uneven sidewalk.
I stop to sit on the bench. Darkness oozes behind the buildings above me. I watch. My vision is sharp. The colorful wooden shutters and ornate twisted black metal on the balconies stand out; things that I had never taken the time to notice during the day. My attention is focused on my surroundings and the playful details that seem to dance out of the shadows.
Street names and signs look brand new, never looked at them properly until now. Eye-catching display cases frame frozen mannequins dressed in expensive labels. The uniform geometric patterns of colonial tiles on the same building are beautiful and unique.
Modern and historical elements rub shoulders in juxtaposition. Without the noise and happy laughter of busy and restless shoppers, I feel like I’m in a whole different place. I get up and slowly start walking home. I hear the church bells ringing again, breaking the silvery silence of the night.
Highly recommended: Sophie Lines with the sharp eye of the night. The Night’s Sharp Eye reads like two prose poems. Main Street is described as a busy, crowded and bustling thoroughfare at one o’clock in the afternoon. All the sights and sounds we associate with a thriving downtown are mentioned: rushing office workers, a screaming child, a barking dog, street vendors, tourists being hit on, the babbling of languages exotic and cacophonous voices.
Then, in the second section, the same street is described but now it is one o’clock in the morning and the street has been drained of its throbbing life. What you had ignored or only superficially noticed during the day now takes on a special meaning: the streetlights are beautifully rendered as “silent soldiers” with the hanging baskets transformed into “shoulder pads”; glow-in-the-dark street names and signs (our black and white street names have special appeal); the frozen mannequins sporting their haute couture clothes, seeming to take the place of the absent crowds.
Sophie drew two very contrasting images of Main Street. They resonate with the circadian rhythm of life in Gibraltar and the poetic prose makes the images particularly memorable.