“the birdcage”

For reasons irrelevant, last night I stayed in a strange hotel in London. “Strange” in the sense that I had never stayed there before, and “strange” in the sense that it was not like any hotel I had ever stayed in previously.

chandelier and stained glass

It was all silk and velvet drapes, chandeliers and stained glass, copper goblets and carved calabashes, Victorian-style portraits and rococo coffee tables. My room had dark oak furniture, harlequin chequered walls in deep orange and purple and two small horned goats’ skulls hung under a string of satin pennants.

As the single bed took up almost half the space in the room, I doubt whether the place really was a brothel, which is what a friend has suggested: not knowing much about either, I’d have inclined more to opium den. More than anything, it reminded me of this scene from Kim:

Kim paused before a filthy staircase that climbed to the warm darkness of an upper chamber, in the ward that is behind Azim Ullah’s tobacco-shop. Those who know it call it The Bird-cage—it is so full of whisperings and whistlings and chirrupings.

The room, with its dirty cushions and half-smoked hookahs, smelt abominably of stale tobacco. In one corner lay a huge and shapeless woman clad in greenish gauzes, and decked, brow, nose, ear, neck, wrist, arm, waist, and ankle, with heavy native jewellery. When she turned it was like the clashing of copper pots. A lean cat in the balcony outside the window mewed hungrily.

Despite my misgivings about most of the furnishings, I did think the wallpaper on the stairs was rather lovely, though not, perhaps, to live with all the time:

exotic bird wallpaper
In case anyone wonders, beyond my comments here, I will not be writing a review.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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