We were at the kitchen table eating dinner last night when a face appeared at the door. Actually, it was more than just a face, it was a whole body. It was a student of oriental parentage, probably here in Brighton at one of our English as a foreign language schools, of which we have several. Hosting foreign students is almost a cottage industry in this city with many families letting out a spare bedroom to earn a little extra cash on the side. This particular student, when I opened the door, held out a phone with an address shown.
"Excuse, please. Where is this number 10?"
Our house is number 9 and the house next door is number 11. He seemed to think that number 10 should have been in between but that little green men had whisked it away. I explained that it was on the other side of the road, down the hill and over the crossroads. I think he went away even more puzzled than when he arrived. Perhaps I should have put my coat and shoes on and taken him to find number 10, but I was in the middle of my meal.
I don't know what system is used for numbering houses in China, if they even have a system, but here in England we usually have odd-numbered houses on one side of the street with the even numbers on the other side. This causes few problems to us as we are born into the system but there are occasional difficulties - such as with our road. There is a stretch of the road on our side where there are no houses while the houses on the other side have already started, so number 1 is not opposite number 2. In fact, number 1 is opposite number 20 and the first few houses on the other side give every appearance of being in a different road altogether.
There was a time when houses were numbered consecutively along one side of the street, the numbers then continuing in the opposite direction on the other side. That system is still in use in some streets here in Brighton but is generally pretty obvious. What has long puzzled me, however, is the system used in America where houses have such enormous numbers - 4487, for example - even though there are only a hundred or so houses in the street. And the house next door might be something like number 4652. I expect it is all very simple really, but it seems totally illogical to me.
One last picture from last Sunday's walk across the Downs. This is looking south across Brighton.