Lights come on in sequence as I pass the security sensors in the gardens on the road into work. Up the hill under the trees a 7.5 tonne potato wagon sends up spray from the asphalt as I pass the illuminated sign with its inspection hatch open and exposed wiring. On, past the woman with the three heavy shopping bags, two hours before any shops open…
It’s raining steadily on the estate where the man in the fleece jacket is kicking down the front door of his own house. Round the corner, a young man wearing nothing but a bathrobe and chunky black shoes with velcro fasteners is arguing loudly with his partner in their ragwort garden. I knock on the shattered gate to get their attention and the man glances up. “I like the sound of that” he says, striding over revealingly. He looks down at the large heavy parcel and his eyes widen, “I like the look of that!” He takes the parcel and reverses back into the garden, shouting over his shoulder “Me fucking engine’s here!”
A council worker with a lanyard and cargo pants is vaping on the lowered tail-lift of the Luton van with the half load of broken wheelie bins. On the pavement across the street her colleague is violently attacking the base of an overflowing bin with a claw hammer. After a dozen heavy blows, the plastic splits and a foul smelling discharge is released into the gutter. For three or four minutes it pours out. “Blimey, is that just rain water?” I say. “Water and food and dog shit” says the council woman, pulling hard on her e-cig.
I walk on past the bent garden trampoline, the faded grey wheelie bin decorated with peeling stickers of flowers and snails, the windowsill of exotic animal figurines: two giraffes, a rhinoceros, a chameleon. Past another bent trampoline, various discarded white goods, and a smashed 1970s display cabinet.
A man in a truck full of junk pulls up, blocking the traffic while he waits for me to walk down the street. I assume he’s wanting directions but as I get closer I realise he’s filming me with his phone. “Hey, mate!” He shouts, “Have you got any old Giros for me?” “Are you filming me?” I shout back. The man yelps out a laugh “Yeh!” he says. “I tell you what, can I have a photo of you with Postman Pat?” he says, laughing again hysterically as he turns off his phone and drives away followed by the half dozen cars that have been waiting behind him.
The rain is coming down heavily when I get back onto the main road. Outside the pub, a skinny old man is on his hands and knees collecting sodden cigarette butts while a younger man in a hooded top splashes past listening to music without headphones. A very thin, jaundiced looking man passes me at speed. He is sitting on a skateboard and waving a two litre bottle of white cider at the drivers of the cars that swerve around him as he travels down the hill on the wrong side of the road, the hem of his coat sweeping through the surface water behind him.
The sun finally comes out and slugs feast on the twenty-two piles of dog shit that litter the six metre long garden path. A man storms up the back ginnel with a muzzled Akita on a lead. He screams at it at the top of his voice “WHY DON’T YOU HAVE A SHIT WHEN YOU CAN HAVE A SHIT INSTEAD OF WHEN YOU WANT A SHIT!” He repeats the sentence again at the same volume, and then again, and then again a further twice more.
The next day, out in the village, the sun is out and beech nuts crunch under my feet, a crisp autumn day. A couple of doors down from the racist old woman’s house, the new occupiers have finished laying their new pattern imprinted concrete driveway. Parked on it, is a restored VW Camper with “Adventure Before Dementia” written across the back.