In the event, he was unable to attend. Which was probably just as well given that Germany were not exactly flavour of the month around here last Sunday night. I suppose it could have been worse: he could have been from Uruguay.
All that I could have been said to provide, therefore, was peace of mind for those whose job it was to organise accommodation. Spare capacity can be useful like that. It also entitled me to turn up for a day to listen to other people’s academic research findings. Everybody has their vice.
Leaving aside for now the main subject of the conference, one of the more lively sub-plots was the way people notice, and use, space. An "outdoor workshop" on this topic was being held that afternoon, so I signed up.
We were all led to the city's main pedestrianised shopping street, and asked to stand in a circle and call out our names. After this I was expecting a quiet spot of something like psycho-geography, but things didn't go quite that smoothly.
We paired up and did that party game where one person pretends to be the other's reflection in a mirror. Then we got into groups and did sequences of poses. Some of the delegates had their cameras and took pictures, so at least this made us look like normal, if slightly amusing, tourists. Finally two lines of about 15 of us each played follow-my-leader all around the street. At this point we really did get some funny looks: someone called out "What are you doing?" and I felt honour bound to give them an explanation. "Street games!"
I suspected some people might have been looking for a collecting-tin to drop coins into. Two onlookers even joined in.
I could tell from the variety of accents I heard during the first exercise that none of the others taking part would ever have to be seen in this street again. But that's not so for me. This street is the venue for our family shopping: every time we need clothes or other mundane stuff, there we go. I had always found it rather boring.
But once something "a bit different", whether surreal, bizarre or exciting, has happened to you in a particular place, have you ever noticed, that place is never quite the same again? I had never noticed until that day, for example, that the fairy-lights in the trees there remain in place all year.