Friday, 2 March 2018

Round About Town

I've been working with to put together a print version of this blog. The result is Round About Town, available from 20th March. The book comprises the complete text from The Most Difficult Thing Ever—10th August 2010 - 25th February 2018—and 58 black & white photographs taken over the same period.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

It’s the first clear blue day for weeks on the solid and dependable streets of semis

It’s the first clear blue day for weeks on the solid and dependable streets of semis: half brick, half pebbledash. Reliable men polish hatchbacks or further fine-tune already solid fixtures and fittings. King Charles spaniels bask on the backs of settees. There’s no dog shit, no litter. People stop me to talk about the weather. A woodpigeon calls against the gentle background thrum of the busy motorway tributary. Left, into a side street and a step up the aspirational ladder: double bay windows, dormers, steeply pitched roofs, 4x4s on the drives. There are sparrows in the neatly trimmed hedges and there are children in the schoolyard. An elderly woman waits for the Cairn terrier in the little red dog coat to shit under the hedge at the edge of the pavement, her walking stick decorated with souvenir badges. “What a lovely morning!” she says, before bending down to carefully package the mess.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, the owner of the pornographic bookshop is unloading bulk bought dog food systems from a battered Transit van, his Yorkshire terrier tethered to the door handle. A noisy Subaru Impreza farts past at about 60mph with an acid green quad bike in noisy pursuit. Further down, opposite the house with the brass plaque on the front door that reads, ‘A friend in need is a pain in the arse’, a couple are huddled over a phone taking an online quiz at the bus stop next to the pile of energy drink cans. “What’s the day after Pancake Day?” asks the man. “Valentine's Day”, says the woman.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

I’m gagging on the stench of the fetid urine

I’m gagging on the stench of the fetid urine and marinated faeces at the house of the bow-legged terrier called Diesel while over the road a woman in bunny slippers and a bath robe is jumping up and down in a wheelie bin.

A young man in a hoodie sings loudly to himself as he walks past

Eleven magpies and a crow overlook the estate where pretend owls outnumber the human population by two to one: fluorescent silk flowers in tiny porches, pizza sized ha’penny stepping stones, a row of three tiny retrievers with placards around their necks saying ‘Welcome’. Both the Buddha and the donkey that pulls the little wooden cart have lost their heads in the recent frost.

The murky horses look dejected in the steep miry field

Mr Briggs answers his door, legs akimbo, thumbs in belt loops. There are no pleasantries, no hello or good morning, instead, he opens with ‘Well, he’s right in amongst ‘em now, in’t he? “Who, What?” I ask. He nods at his neighbour’s house over the road, “He’s in Goa, in’t he? Moans like hell about ‘em when they come over here, then he goes over there to see them!’

Ensnared black plastic flaps from barbed wire while a solitary starling swanee whistles from a telegraph pole. A long ‘V’ formation of geese honk overhead. I pull up in the van next to the field of jackdaws and rooks—hundreds probably. I get out and slam the door. The jackdaws fly off. The rooks stay put.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Highlights: 2017

*Audio: Beeves

Highlights: 2017

Listening to speaker-phone hip-hop
Fly-tipping your wheelie bin
Playing kerby between two derelict fridges
Driving your Skoda Fabia at high speed while wearing a polyester parka
Trying to look nonchalant while your dog pisses on next door’s gatepost
Playing with your knob in Sports Direct
Eating Pot Noodle in a Portakabin
Kicking the green hamster of sphagnum down the wooden steps
Discussing who will look after the technical side when Geoff’s gone
The dead twigs in plastic pots and the fake bells of All Saints
Mending a caravan and shouting for Susan
Improving Yorkshire’s sewers
Discussing a mutual neighbour: “That twat over the road”
Pushing a baby in a pushchair past some discarded bathroom scales
Snowflakes settling on your luxuriant mahogany perm
Wearing matching purple anoraks
Goldfinches squabbling in polythene trees
Unfashionable bell-bottom jeans in indigo
Galahad Premium Lager and bags of green potatoes
Eating peanuts while the man with the Father Christmas bag-for-life hugs a spaniel
Walking your Akita past the temperance fountain
Threatening to jump from a railway bridge
Gathering around the modular seating at the Hyundai showroom
Decorating your Smart car with an Iron Cross motif and the word ‘Luftwaffe’ in an elaborate jackboot font
Cutting out the word ‘J-Dog’ from some silver foil and displaying it in the window of the cab of your truck
Smashing the windows of a VW Golf and dragging out the driver
Sitting on a bench with analeptic leg shakes and an eagle print t-shirt, smoking weed
Couch grass paving flags and fake lawns in acid green
Wearing Crocs to chamois your Skoda Yeti
A brace of German saloons and a statue of the Buddha
Making use of the pejorative overtones of the word ‘titivate’ while discussing your neighbour’s new outdoor LED display
Walking down Newsome Road with your head in your hands
Arguing about which of you understands dogs the most
jumping from a four foot high garden wall using a Morrison’s bag as a parachute
Leaning on the bins and drinking strong cider
Seeing if you’ve got a bag of Cheetos in the third drawer down
Installing a lurid 3D picture of a blond haired Christ adjacent to the front door of the vicarage
Wearing superman pyjamas to withdraw a tenner
Accidentally going to Whitby during the Goth weekender
Having a bloody funeral to go to

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

5.30a.m.: It’s cold. I don’t go through the park because it’s too icy and too dark in there

5.30a.m.: It’s cold. I don’t go through the park because it’s too icy and too dark in there. Instead, I duck under the overhanging holly at the entrance and walk around. I edge along glistening pavements, past frozen crisp packets, polystyrene cups, shimmering vomit, sticking close to the railings so I can grab them when I slip.

An old man who smells of weed stops me in the street to wish me a happy Christmas. He puts his hand on my shoulder and hums a short tune. “What’s that then?” I ask. “Music” he says, and he wanders off over the road.

At the house with the broken satellite dish and an empty Foster’s can in the garden, the front door has been graffitied with a marker pen: inside a wonky love heart it says, “I miss you Mum”.

Two young men in grey tracksuits and snapback baseball caps walk past drinking lager and listening to loud auto-tuned pop on mobile speakers with no bottom end.

Outside the Polish Corner restaurant in town, a chubby man in a tracksuit is pretending to buff-up his bald head while he takes a selfie. His friends can barely contain their mirth.

The woman on the bus recommends the Wills O’ Nats pub, “The staff really look after you”, she says. “Really nice food, really nice atmosphere. It was just nice to get home afterwards”.

At the shop.
Man at self-service checkout: This isn’t working, love. Must be manned by a woman.
Female shop assistant: You’ve put your card in upside down.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

As I exit the park gates, I hear a loud crunch

As I exit the park gates, I hear a loud crunch. I look up to see a green fluorescent cyclist bounce off the side of an Octavia taxi and onto the road. He gets to his feet quickly and holds out his hands in a ‘What the fuck?’ gesture to driver behind the wheel. “I’ve got a light,” he shouts, switching the light on his helmet off and on again, “I’ve got a fluorescent jacket,” he says, tugging at the collar of his hi-vis, “How come you didn’t see me?” The taxi driver doesn’t respond.

I follow the two Polish men in anoraks and combat pants down Fitzwilliam Street. The shorter of them is swigging Polish lager as they walk. When they reach the bottom of the hill, he throws his can into the bin and they stand conversing loudly for a minute or so before heading off in opposite directions.

The short tubby man in his late fifties with the raglan cardigan and combover tells me he accidentally went to Whitby during the goth weekender. “By ‘eck, we saw some right sights!” he explains, shaking his head. “They were selling steam punk starter kits for twenty quid: a pair of goggles and a hat with a feather in it. I have to admit I was tempted, but I didn’t bother in the end.”

A five-bar gate has been installed on new wooden posts a couple of meters back from the original stone ones. I open it and make my way up the dirt road past the old stone buildings whose roofs are bright green with moss.

A jay flies out from Southernwood.

The man in the red North Face jacket flicks the bottom of his crisp bag with his middle finger before tipping his head back and upending the dregs into his open mouth.

The tall poplars behind the new estate are capped yellow with the last of the leaves that still cling to the very top of the canopy. There are pink, lace-up Hunter wellingtons, Union Jack themed soft furnishings and a man in a gilet in his late fifties. “There’s always something to do,”  he tells me. “Last weekend I had to unblock the drain and this weekend, I had to build a shed. There’s always summat to do, in’t there? There’s always summit.”

Mr Briggs pulls up in his Suzuki Carry: “If you don’t see me tomorrow, hang on to my mail, will you? I’ve got a bloody funeral to go to.” And with that, he spins his wheels on the wet leaves in the gutter and speeds away towards Meltham — where it’s a right bugger to park, so he often tells me.

The bald man behind me on the bus says he doesn’t get why everyone is still bothered about iPhones: “I could understand it when they first came out and you could get an app that made a whipping sound or a noise like a fart; it was fun, but where do you go from there? I mean, what’s the point now?”

Friday, 13 October 2017

6 a.m.: It’s been a windy night.

6 a.m.: It’s been a windy night. There are leaves swirling around the fallen apples on the pavement. In the park, two young men are unable to resist the child’s scooter which has been abandoned against a litter bin. After a couple of failed attempts at bunny-hops, they lose interest and prop it back where they'd found it. They are in conversation as they walk up the path towards me: 
“The thing is, right, she’s said a few things recently that have made me feel a bit, hmm.”
“What? Like it’s kind of getting a bit more serious than you’d like?”

I follow the man in head-to-toe hi-vis who is smoking strong weed. He’s walking slower than I am and, as I catch him up, he emits a loud belch. When I overtake him and he realises that I’d have been within earshot, he clears his throat several times perhaps thinking I’d assume that what I’d taken to be a noisy eructation was just another attempt at clearing his passages.

the five-year-old plastic lawn at number twelve is really starting to fade now. It has bleached to quite a pale green and is now far more realistic than when it was installed.

The woman in the trouser suit whose long blonde hair is tied back in a black scrunchie is on the phone: “Hiya, can you do us a favour? Can you see if I’ve got a bag of Cheetos in the third drawer down?"

On the new estate, three boys are playing football in the road. A girl asks if she can join in, “Yes,” says the boy in the Chelsea kit, “You can pretend you’re watching us on the TV.”

The vicar has installed a lurid 3D picture of a blond haired Christ adjacent to the front door of the vicarage.

It’s a bit rough around here; the landlords have attached advertisements for boarding-up services to the front windows and, at the cash machine outside the post office, an elderly woman wearing Superman pyjamas is withdrawing a tenner.

In town, it’s gloomy, wet and windy. I move aside for the three drunks and their free-range bow-legged Staffy. They are owning the space like their lives depend on it—which they probably do. They gob on the floor and ostentatiously impart their observations on life: "She were a right big lass for a girl." 

Robbie Williams spews out over ‘The Piazza’ on the rubbish PA system: "I got too much life running through my veins” he sings with no bottom-end to all the old women as they hobble past Poundworld with their bags-for-life and their hoods up against the pissing horizontal rain.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Leaves are stuck fast to the roofs of cars with condensation

Leaves are stuck fast with condensation to the roofs of cars. More leaves and a couple of energy drink cans line the gutter. I can hear a police siren, the noise of a train going through the cutting, a jangle of keys as a man unlocks the community centre and the wood pigeons calling from the beech on the edge of the wood. There are some more old mattresses in the front garden of the flats and a burst bin bag outside A-Z Tyres where the fuchsia had dropped its flowers in a neat purple stripe. In the park, a flock of gulls swoops low over the narrow gauge railway and the Canada geese by the pond stare at me as I walk past.

In town, the tail-lifts creak, the pallet trucks squeak and the drunks in the church gardens argue about which of them understands dogs the most. Above them, a fourth-floor window opens and two men lean out. One of them launches a paper dart made from a pizza menu. “What the fuck was that?” the other exclaims as it spiral dives straight down and crashes onto the pavement below.

Later, on the estate, a learner driver cautiously passes the boy of about eight who jumps from a four-foot high garden wall using a Morrison’s bag as a parachute and then rolls histrionically across the pavement.

I pass two untidy looking men with several missing teeth. They are leaning on the bins and drinking strong cider. “You look nothing like Postman Pat!” one of them shouts to me in a slightly camp accent.
“Do you not like my look?” I ask, "This high-vis is brand new.”
“It’s not so bad, you just don’t look like Postman Pat, that’s all," the man says before his attention is drawn to the tall woman in her seventies with the full-length woollen overcoat who has just come round the corner and is trying to avoid eye contact. “I love your coat!” he shouts after her. 
“Thanks, love,” says the woman, blushing slightly.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Most Difficult Thing Ever at the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography

  • The Most Difficult Thing Ever will feature in the programme of the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography at Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, September 8th-10th 2017.

    "The 4th World Congress of Psychogeography in 2017 brings together people from all walks of life to to Huddersfield this Autumn. With a mix of walks and talks come and find out what it’s all about and take the opportunity to explore new ways of seeing the world around you. Some of the walks are also part of Heritage Open Days in Huddersfield. 
    Please note that some details may change, please check these listing nearer to the time to double check the running order. Any under 16s must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Please dress appropriately for the weather if you are taking part in an outdoor activity. Some events may require booking, but all are free."

    MUSIC / TALK / FILM:  The Most Difficult Thing Ever 
    Saturday 9th September, 18.00,  Auditorium 
    By: Kevin Boniface, Beeves, & ML-B 
    Artists/musicians Beeves, ML-B, and Kevin Boniface will help you to make a bit less sense of Huddersfield through its frost damaged backyard buddhas, its bag-for-lifes, its salmon and potato dog food, its polythene trees, its Susans and its Geoffs, its Pot Noodle Portakabins, its mid-winter flip-flops, its couch grass window-boxes, its gin and slim on noughties decking, its talk of chimineas and quad bikes, its heated discussions about lorne sausage, its swanee-whistling starlings and its ketchup stained promotional air-dancers. 
    A Huddersfield experience realised in film, soundscape, music, and talking out loud.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Walking into work at 6 a.m., I am overtaken by a man on an old mountain bike.

Walking into work at 6 a.m., I am overtaken by a man on an old mountain bike, a Labrador on a lead trotting alongside him. 20 yards ahead of me on the pavement is the spectral flâneur who I’ve occasionally glimpsed sight of over many years as he conducts his early morning dérives around town. He is easily recognised by his head-to-toe navy blue waterproofs and tightly drawn hood—whatever the weather. Over time I have convinced myself of this man's supernatural powers of perception and am consequently intimidated by his presence in the same street as me. 
Eventually, the mountain biker and Labrador catch up with and pass the mysterious flâneur which appears to prompt him to take flight; he suddenly leaps from the pavement, sprints across the road and disappears into a side street for another few months.

I have a badly addressed parcel to deliver: no street number, just a name. I ask the camp eastern European man with the tattoos who lives at the house with the waist height grass meadow in the front yard whether he recognises it. He says he doesn't which seems to frustrate him. I can tell he really wants to help and, after thinking for a moment he says, "The only advice I can give you is to drive really slowly along the road looking in all the windows at the curtains and things.”

It’s windy. I can hear plastic bottles blowing down the street. I see one bounce past the little junction box whose inspection door has been secured shut with brown packing tape.

Balls of plastic topiary hang from chains by front doors on the new estate. There are low maintenance bits of lawn, bits of privet, bits of cotoneaster etc. On a window sill, a pair of metallic effect picture frames display identical pieces of white paper printed with the words 4x4 Metallic Effect Frame.

At the house that smells of dog piss, there are signs on the gate that say Beware of Dogs. Next door, at the house where a recording of an Islamic call to prayer is audible from an upstairs window, there is a handwritten note in pencil attached to the door frame above the bell. It says “What are YOU saying?”

The sun comes out briefly and the broken glass glistens on the pavements. A scattering of takeaway detritus blows in a circle outside the post office where the couple with the bags-for-life are having an argument at the bus stop.

Inside the newsagent’s shop with the faded sign, a big man on crutches is talking to the thin woman in the torn gilet behind the counter. He is dressed in black with his hood up. He says Dr Who has had too many assistants over the years. “It started with his granddaughter and she was around for a while and then a new one came in and she’d be gone before you knew it and then there’d be another female on.” he explains, “There have been that many assistants it’s hard to keep up sometimes.”

On the estate of sweet peas and sticky grass, the 4x4 is loaded up and the kids are strapped in for the holiday drive. Parents scurry back and forth, “Have you got your fidget spinners?”

“Well, she’s putting enough weight on for twins,” says the waitress at the pub as she walks past the bar with plates of screwed up serviettes and ketchup stacked the length of her forearm. The barman glances up from his phone with a wry smile.

I pass The Bathstore on the ring road and I find myself thinking about the olive green plastic bath panel that was on sale for years at a rural post office from where I used to collect the mail. Other than post office essentials: stamps, envelopes, pens, there was nothing else for sale but this olive green bath panel. It was hung from baling twine above the cashier’s head and had a price tag of £18 attached to it. The office is long gone and presumably, the bath panel will have gone with it.