La Nausée

A service station just off the Fifth Circle of Hell, very early in the morning, somewhere around the peak hour for suicide attempts: My journey time has been tripled by the closure of relevant sections of the M11 and the M25. The woman who lives in my sat nav has been asked to re-calculate the route home so many times that I swear her voice is acquiring an hysterical edge.

Not having had a proper dinner, I am desperate for hot food. Both KFC and Burger King are closed; At the counter where they serve recognisable meals, I have just been told that the pasta is off and it isn’t possible for them to toast a panini for me. I pay £4 for a cold sandwich made from spherical, water-filled chickens and take it and my coffee to the only seating area still open to customers.

I choose a table close to one of the many islands of triplets of plasma-screen TVs. I would like to hear the news and reassure myself that my problems aren’t exactly the worst in the World. Unfortunately, I get my wish. In the small hours, it seems, BBC News 24 stops trying to analyse just how bad it is for George W Bush that the US Supreme Court has declared his setting up of military commissions for Guantanamo Bay prisoners beyond his powers, and instead shows documentaries.

The screen is filled by the weary face of a middle-aged woman. She is saying, “If it was consensual, would I have had the internal injuries the doctor found?”

Today is Independence Day in the equally whimsically named Democratic Republic of Congo.

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