Monday, October 17, 2011

The Kenyan Shining

If ever anybody wanted to make a Kenyan version of The Shining, the Panari Sky Centre would be an ideal choice for the setting.

Looks very shiny and modern, right? In many ways, it is, but step inside past the glass and steel, take the elevator to the second-floor entertainment complex that includes an ice rink, children's center and a closed-down cinema, and you will see what I mean.

We went skating on Saturday to find a handful of people describing forlorn and awkward circles on the melting ice in a barn-like room decorated by sad loops of tinsel that gave the vibe of Christmas in an old folks' home, where the pensioners nod off over their pudding and dream of better days. Outside the rink are two empty glass counters where once you could buy tickets for the two cinema screens, whose entrances look more like the doorways to confessional booths.

In the deserted kids' area you will find: an unbounced-on bouncy castle; a bucking bronco whose flaking plastic skin makes it look like it is suffering from foot-and-mouth disease; a huge plastic fountain, sporting a spooky eagle, where spotlights without bulbs hang limply over an empty basin full of dead flies; one of those machines where you try to pick up a cuddly toy with a crane - except the threadbare toys stare hopelessly out at you with dead eyes, pleading for release from their years of captivity; and a candyfloss salesman who looks like he has to live on his wares, so rare are customers.

Admittedly, the Panari doesn't have the long history of the Overlook Hotel, and most of the ghosts would be of the customers who never came rather than those who indulged in sex, drugs, murder and the occult, but it is a wonderfully creepy location.

I think I feel a short story coming on.

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