I’ve been struggling recently. I so want to write and I know there’s ideas floating about – I’ve just been struggling to find them and pin them down. Last week I decided to be active about this finding expedition. I travelled to Stuttgart, Germany with the hope of finding something wonderful. The novel I’m planning revolves around three people. I’ve sort of got patches of personality, of their histories and of their thought processes. However, I don’t have faces, and the relationships are a bit foggy.
For one reason or another (but most likely the rock hard bed) I was up at 4am on the day when I was going to go exploring in the centre of Stuttgart, and I decided to do some research into the best places to visit. An hour (and several quiet swear words at the dodgy internet connection later) I had my plan. I mean, I say plan, but in reality it was just a singular destination: Stuttgart Library. It sounds lame. There’s a library a ten minute walk away from where I live in England – but this is Stuttgart Library.
Eight floors of the lightest light and millions of books. Each floor had a different genre: music, life, knowledge, literature etc. I headed straight for the top floor, number eight: art. I was in the lift with a handful of other people. It was pretty small, so you’d think the teenage skinny-jeaned couple in front of me would not be as touchy as they were when we were waiting for the lift in the lobby, but no. Happily they got off at floor zwei (children’s) and allowed me to continue my ascension in solitude. I stepped out of the lift at the top of the library and felt giddy. I’m amazed that that photo turned out clearly because my hands were so shaky leaning over the railings. I walked around for a while and enjoyed the silence. As far as I know there was no instruction for the noise level – the atmosphere kind of just commanded it.
The library was actually pretty busy – so why did it feel like I was the only one there?
Amidst the bright white, there were paintings. Sort of abstract at first glance, but when you stood back and looked at it from a distance they were all images of people reading. This made me think for a little while, because everything I’d seen of German architecture and design so far had been so certain, so sharp and above all, efficient. These paintings didn’t seem to fit in – where was their use, their efficiency? I decided that they could be metaphors for books. You judge it on face value – but then there’s something hidden that you have to invest time in to find out.
Then it turned out that when I thought I’d been a bit clever I was just being massively obtuse because when I showed Dan the photos that I’d taken of the wall-art he asked what the QR codes were.
“I thought they were wallpaper.” A meek and slightly embarrassing response.
I stayed at the library for a long time. I sat next to a man with inch long eyebrows who had surrounding him leaflets and books all with the same title, ‘Auf Nackter Haut’. I translated it into, ‘On Bare Skin’. I didn’t look into it any more than that, I quite enjoyed wondering what sort of person he was just from the title. I imagine that place to be wonderful for research – you’re literally on top of everything: information, essays, theorists, stories. What a brilliant foundation.
I left the library and started to make my way back to the apartment. The library was certainly inspiring, but I still didn’t have the missing patches of my characters I was looking for. Then, at the subway stop before mine, something wonderful happened. The train made a false stop – a pause before it was supposed to. A few people stood, including a woman who was sitting opposite me. After the pause the train started again and everyone received a jolt. The woman’s jolt resulted in her falling into the lap of the man next to her. He took her by the waist and carefully helped her once more to her feet. I thought they must know each other because they exchanged a laugh and a few words that I couldn’t make out – and it wasn’t awkward in the slightest. But I don’t think they did know each other. Without even looking back she made her way out of the train. She was turned away from the man, but facing me and she had the biggest smile on her face. She was ten times prettier when she smiled. She got off and I chanced a look over to her shining knight. He too, looking down at his hands was smiling. It faded after a few seconds – but then spread across his face once again.
Right there, right then I knew I’d found my patches. And to think, all I’d had to do was take a train.
And if you’re still awake, here are some more memories from Germany: