Friday, 26 June 2020

Responses to being asked ‘How are you?’

Responses to being asked ‘How are you?’

Man, 50s, re-potting saplings, jeans, t-shirt: All right, my man.

Man, 60s, digging up tree stump, jeans, open neck shirt: I’ll be all right when I get this thing out.

Man, 60s, weeding driveway with long hoe, bucket hat, jeans, t-shirt, face mask: Humphliphhtschts.

Man, 70s, painting small headless ankylosaurus garden statue with silver paint, shorts, open

neck shirt: Still buggering on.

Man, 50s, supervising building work, jeans, plaid shirt, shooting vest, Stetson hat: Hello, How are you? Have you got a mortgage? Credit cards? If you’re anything like me you’ll pay off any debts… The shits gonna hit the fan… hyperinflation… they don’t care about the likes of us, they’re only interested in lining their pockets… to hell with you and me… you’ll be earning a pittance… get your affairs in order… Pension? Ha!… I don’t know what it is, some people say I’m psychic but I predicted this… global currency reset… neo-liberal conspiracy… Fact, the coronavirus was created in a lab in China… Venezuela… Are you a bit of a prepper too?

I pass the laughing gas canisters and the empty packets of balloons on the pavement and turn up the cul-de-sac of detached mid-century bungalows. ‘Just leave it on the step. It’ll be safe. We don’t have any problems round here’ says the man in the open neck shirt and bucket hat. At the house thirty yards back down the main road the signs on the gate read THIS PROPERTY IS UNDER CONSTANT SURVEILLANCE CCTV and BEWARE OF DOG DO NOT ENTER.

Two men in their 60s in front of me in the queue are reading racist memes to each other from their phones. After four failed attempts at pronouncing the word democracy the fat one in the big shorts gives up suddenly when his black friend comes to join them.

Everything people said to me on the estate today

Where’s the other one?*

Where’s he gone?*

Bye, thanks luvvie

Thanks, love

Pop it on the bin there

Thanks, love 

Where’s the other one?*

Cheers, thanks a lot

She’ll not bother you, she’ll lick you to death. I had to train her myself with a chair and a whip

Nice day for it

Never mind him, through here

Is he off all week? I hope it pisses down*

Are you coming here?

If it’s a bill you can keep it

As long as you’re not using it as a shortcut. People do. Not allowed.

Isn’t it warm

Thank you, thank you very much

*Reference to the usual postman whose delivery I was covering.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

The elderly woman at the bungalow is pleased with her parcel of flowers

The elderly woman at the bungalow is pleased with her parcel of flowers. She briefly disappears inside to fetch a couple of Aldi chocolate bars 'Here you are, love. I’m so grateful for what you and your colleagues are doing'. I thank her and she tells me that she hasn’t left the house for ten weeks. 'That must be hard for you. How are you coping?' I ask. She bursts into tears.

At the flats an emaciated looking man in a 90s blouson tracksuit top and torn combat pants stops me. 'Scuse me mate can you spare me thirty, forty pee for summat to eat?' I apologise, I’ve got no cash on me. 'It’s all right, mate. I didn’t know you were the fucking parcel man.'

Is it for my nana? She’s been waiting for a parcel!’ asks the small boy ‘I don’t know’ I say, 'Is your nana’s name Jacqueline Smith?’ ‘Oh no,’ says the boy, ‘Her name’s Nana Jacquie’.

A man is walking towards me on the same side of the pavement. He’s wearing a grey hiker’s soft-shell jacket and trouser combination. I step out into the road to keep a social distance. He doesn’t look up from his Patrick O’Brian paperback.

It’s unseasonably warm and still. The asphalt outside the post office is melting and Mrs Woodhead is chasing a budgerigar around her front room in a bikini. Up on the hillside above the town there are fields of buttercups to the left and an elevated view across the whole of the valley on the right. Ivy and brambles grow along the dry stone walls where the jackdaws perch unruffled by any wind. Elderflower crowns the overgrown verge side vegetation; brambles, thistles, couch grass and nettles as high as the walls. I pass a woman hiking in an Aussie rules jersey with her phone on a lanyard around her neck. Phone cables hang from their poles like sound waves into the distance. A sun bleached road cone guards a hole in a rusty barbed wire fence where I say hello to the man with the Sebald moustache—or is it the postman from Mr Tickle? The hazy scent of summer swells; baking tree litter and fresh new foliage. Clouds wisp. Outside the hillside terrace, a well seasoned grit bin is almost buried in the undergrowth. The metal clasp on the lid has broken but part of the hinge is still in place and leached rust streaks the chunky faded yellow plastic. A chubby young man astride a stationary motorbike is talking to his elderly neighbour about the coronavirus. 'I’m not going back. I’m never using public transport again after this'. Further along, a man in denim jeans and a faded blue t-shirt says the view across to Holme Moss is stunning and I agree. A couple in their sixties sit on a bench surrounded by some unusually tall mother-die, she’s pointing out something on the horizon and he squints into the distance as two grey haired cyclists in lycra crest the hill.

In the village, a loud blackbird is singing in the big sycamore by the church, below it on the pavement are spatters of avian abstract expressionism. A big white cow lumbers down the sloping field in the distance towards the woman in the white vest top and coral pink shorts. She’s reaching for something in an orange bandolier style bag.

I’ve spoken to only four people in the last hour and a half. Just brief hellos to the young skateboarder in grey shorts and backpack, the young man with the big hair and nineties baggy skate clothes, the man in the pink polo shirt who was washing his Mercedes with a hosepipe, and the woman in with the blue twin set and full skirt who was chasing her long haired corgi down the road because the paper boy had left the gate open again. 'You postmen never leave the gate open!' she shouts as she disappears up the path of the graveyard.

Jackdaws are chasing starlings and house martins are fighting over the old nests on the terrace. Among all the regular goldfinches, sparrows and robins I see the first greenfinch I’ve seen for years as well a bullfinch, a chiffchaff and a spotted flycatcher.

Just as Mr Russell with the homemade automaton post box predicted it begins to rain heavily. His peony blooms have been flattened to the floor and there are petals everywhere. The light wispy flakes of sun dried leaves in the gutters are now a thick dark porridge and the rain is coming down with such force that it’s bringing with it a fresh green covering of foliage.

Later, in the baked goods aisle of the supermarket a man with a Roy Orbison lockdown hairstyle and purple flowery shirt fumbles in the pocket of his long-in-the-leg jeans for his phone. It rings loudly with the opening few bars of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. Over by the cooking sauces two members of staff are replenishing the Old El Paso Original Smoky Fajita Kits. 'I mean, did you see all the media outside his house just because of what he did for his child?' 'I know, it’s like who can honestly say, hand on heart, that they’ve not broken any of the rules.' 'I know, I mean it’s like, as long as you’re not stupid'.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

It’s a bright morning

It’s a bright morning. A light breeze. A blackbird is singing in the sycamore tree above the nerf gun bullets in the gutter. Two furloughed men in polo shirts are talking loudly across an expanse of Luxury Artificial Grass—no mowing, no watering, no weeding. ‘It’s our lass’s birthday today’ says the one in the navy blue shorts. ‘Did you get her owt?’ Asks the other one in the navy blue shorts. ‘A shredder. She’s always shredding stuff and the old one’s broken.’ ‘Oh. Have you heard about Little Richard…?’
In the garden a few doors down the derelict trailer containing pebbledash concrete shed panels has been consumed by clocking dandelions and stinging nettles. Stuck to the inside of the window of the front room with sellotape, above the model of a soldier in a red tunic and bearskin hat, a glass union jack ashtray and a large woodpecker assembled from pieces of scrap metal, there’s a Thank You NHS rainbow cut from the local paper. Quite a large woman in floral leggings is bent over a large plastic terracotta-look plant pot with a trowel in one hand and a tray of seedlings in the other. ‘These are just gonna do one, I can tell.’ she says. ‘I can tell, they’re just gonna do one, they’ve had it”. A thin man in jeans, holding a cigarette stands over her. “Be careful, love” he says. ‘I AM being careful, they’re just falling apart!’
‘I think I might be pregnant’ says a man to his neighbour over a weathered overlap fence. ‘How come?’ says the neighbour. ‘I’ve been eating a whole cucumber every day these last few weeks’. ‘They’re refreshing though, aren’t they?’
The window cleaners are discussing the coronavirus with the occupier of the end terrace. He’s come outside in bare feet with cigarettes and tea “It wor man-made, wan’t it? It wor man-made. They’ve made it in a lab and it’s mutated, an’t it?” An elderly man shuffles past in salwar kameez, a face mask worn over his chin and bottom lip.
The new estate of detached period simulacra—all Jags and Range Rovers—smells strongly of the weed smoke that is pluming from the open window of one of the council houses that backs onto it.
“Wee wees! Don’t mess me about! Wee wees, now!” says the woman with the lockdown hairstyle to her unenthusiastic Border terrier.
Back out on the main road, a man in his 30s, flat cap over long hair, pool sliders under long jeans, liberates a large illustrated book about birds from the skip outside number two. Behind him in the road, a pristine scavenging jackdaw is wrestling with something wedged between the crack of a manhole cover and the asphalt.
Under the railway bridge out of the park and on past the walls and trees in ivy. Up the mother-die lined footpath next to the mid-century brick substation with the vernacular perches for tired witches. Above the tree-line an aerobatic hobby is after the new swifts and around the corner where the road starts again, local blues guitar legend and leatherworker George Gray is out for a walk in an ill-judged puffa coat.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

6.25am: A warm draught of strong weed infiltrates the van via the open vent on the dashboard

6.25am: A warm draught of strong weed infiltrates the van via the open vent on the dashboard and the woman in the new KIA Sportage in front throws a joint out of the window as she pulls away from the lights. It’s a bright morning but it’s rained over night and traffic splashes through potholes on the road of mainly builders’ wholesalers. The pub on the corner where all the punk bands played in the 80s has been boarded up for years.

Later, on the edge of town where the Chinese students live, wheelie bins clutter the pavements—fourteen in one short terrace of six houses. I pass the Peugeot with no radiator grill up on bricks and the Lithuanian Mercedes with four flat tyres. I stop at each front door: white wooden, white wooden, brown wooden, white plastic, black composite, white plastic with scaffolding and a big pile household belongings on the pavement outside; three pull-along trollies spilling their contents into the road, clothes, books, a toaster…

On the estate on the moor, couch grass, dandelions and dock leaves have colonised the joints between the edge of the pavement and the kerb as well as the gaps between the kerb and the asphalt of the road; neat double rows of foot high pioneer vegetation line the Avenues, Closes, Rises and Crescents.

A gang of kids on bikes swarm around my van (they’re not doing social distancing around here), one of them opens the back doors and when I slam them shut again I am threatened. “I’LL SMASH YOUR FUCKING STUPID FACE AND BREAK THOSE FUCKING STUPID GLASSES” says the oldest of them, probably about sixteen. He’s angry because he doesn’t think I should be “Getting up in the grill of a little kid”.

An elderly couple are out for their lockdown walk. The woman—purple anorak and grey trousers—waits patiently for the man—washed out black anorak, walking stick. He’s stopped to inspect the planning notice which is cable tied to the lamp post opposite the post office.

Many years ago I would relieve the monotony of my post round by performing it in the style of somebody else. One of the personas I adopted was that of a weather-beaten old hill farmer from somewhere up on the moors. I would shout Eyup! to people and go on about how I was a bit nesh or say it was looking black over Bill’s mother’s. It occurs to me now that I pretty much do my round like that for real these days. It’s like that bit in Colditz where Wing Commander Marsh tries to trick the guards by feigning insanity but actually goes mad in the process.

There are goldfinches in the broken cherry and a blackbird is singing on the summit of a forty foot Leylandii. Dandelions are clocking, the cypresses are yellowing with new growth. A flock of starlings is pecking around in amongst the buttercups in the big field at the back of the estate.

The man with the tidy beard is inspecting the not quite sunken enough lights of his herringbone driveway. Most of them are cracked. At the house opposite, with the bench press and a quad bikes parked on the plastic lawn, a drift of pink cherry blossom underlines the grey plastic fence.

The hi-vis driver is delivering trays of white sliced to the post office. The postmaster comes out in an Adidas baseball cap and an old fashioned looking shell suit top to sign the delivery docket. He reaches up to the driver on the raised tail lift and hands him back his clipboard. They thank each other with a small salute style wave and the postmaster walks off dragging his biro along the powder coated railings of the day care centre.

Back at the office, one of my colleagues tells me he thinks the whole coronavirus thing is a hoax anyway, he says the NHS is still functioning well below its capacity and the new Nightingale hospitals are all empty. Another of my colleagues shows me a film he shot on his phone of the UFO he saw hovering above his house a couple of weeks ago. I tell him he should show it to my boss, he’s an expert on UFOs. He says he was abducted by aliens from Pendle Hill when he was a boy.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

On the ridge tiles above the 1:6 scale Laurel and Hardy and the twice life-size rabbit

On the ridge tiles above the 1:6 scale Laurel and Hardy and the twice life-size rabbit, I notice a heron surveying the sleepy bungaloid exension. I point it out to the man with the hosepipe and he tells me it’s been kicking about for days.

It’s the season of sunny pinks and yellows; drifts of cherry blossom line pavements with dandelions, gorse, grit bins, double yellow lines.
At the house on the corner of the estate, the man in his sixties is admiring his new St George cross wind sock while at the bus stop in the road outside an elderly woman with a pull-along shopping cart pulls her face mask down to have a long drag on her cigarette.
10.30am. I park up next to the dirty Visitor Parking sign at the flats; scuffed brushed steel that still just about reflects the red of the van with a peeling inlayed sans serif in black. It’s come warm now and the bees are sniffing around the frenetic white azaleas. A man in a black baseball cap, black t-shirt and black jeans gets into a black Renault Megane. A large woodpigeon alights on the canopy of one of the neat new row of slender galvanised street lamps and a man in a Huddersfield Town shirt leans on a wheelie bin to sing the REM song, Losing My Religion in its entirety at the top of his voice.
“If their car’s not there, they’ll not be in” says the up tight miserable neighbour. “Can I leave it with you?” I ask. “I suppose so” he sighs, not getting up. The cheery “Thanks, pal. You’re doing a great job” comments have dried up in the new normal.
The chemist has been broken into over night, the big display window and both panels of the door have been boarded up. A woman in her fifties is on her phone in the queue outside, “I’m not being horrible but you know what I mean?”
A man wearing a face mask in the queue at the post office waves and shouts a muffled hello. I say hello back. He says something else unintelligible. “Pardon” I say. He muffles into his mask again and I still don’t know what he’s saying so I approximate what I hope is an appropriate response, a slight laugh accompanied by a “Yeah”. His face his covered by his mask but I get the impression that this is a friend rather than a customer. I try, but I can’t make out what he’s saying or who he is so I just do a more open-faced laugh and a more enthusiastic yeah.
I pull up in the road next to two men in their fifties in jeans and rugby shirts. They are standing in the road drinking cans of Foster’s lager.
The man of about sixty in the full Watford football strip picks up his parcel from doorstep using a jumper to protect his hands.
A couple of early swallows whip around the telegraph wires above the house where they have pressed the cockpit canopy of a small aeroplane into use as a greenhouse. Next door, the young woman in leggings and dark glasses is on her phone, “If somebody in my household is ill then they can’t make me go to work. It says THEY CAN’T MAKE ME GO TO WORK”

Thursday, 9 April 2020

A pair of deer bound along the back of the 90s estate.

A pair of deer bound along the back of the 90s estate. “Have you got a light?” ask the teenage boys who aren’t doing social distancing. 'No' I say as I round the corner. At one of the semis, a big jowly man with a shaved head walks up the path and a dog’s bark fractures the silence. The man responds with a much deeper, even louder bark of his own and the middle-aged couple in matching grey anoraks who are taking their exercise allowance quicken their pace. They head off towards the top end of the estate where the houses have Quality Driveways.

At the flats, the smell of dogs is masked with a cheap aerosol air freshener which catches in the back of my throat. I pull myself up the scuffed red vinyl concrete stairs two at a time, swinging around the stairwell on the wrought iron railings. The clatter of letterboxes reverberates noisily on the narrow landings. Back outside, a crow sits on the new LED street lamp above the Lynx deodorant gift box in the bramble litter trap. I pause to look out across the big elevated view of the deserted estate as the smell of weed drifts up the hillside and then I turn and walk into a spider’s web. As pick the sticky strands of silk out of my eyes and mouth I walk into a low slung washing line knocking my hat off onto the floor.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Past the mid-century RIBA award winner...

Past the mid-century RIBA award winner, the ivy clad tumbledown drystone, the elderly man exercising in Hushpuppies, the field of molehills, the Golden Cock, the lycra cyclists, the girl with the earbuds, the topless builder, the row of red brick semis, the neighbours who’ve forgotten about social distancing, the pulmonary pandemic silhouettes of bare trees, Julie waving from her van, the curtain twitchers who are relishing their new authority. 
“Just throw it over the wall, buddy!” says the man with a savage little terrier under each arm — both these dogs have bitten me in the past. I throw his parcel, “Stay safe, buddy!” 

I drive out to Storthes Hall student halls where in the autumn of 1979, my primary school headmaster and I delivered our Harvest Festival bounty. The imposing Edwardian building was a psychiatric hospital back then and some of the patients unnerved me. As I make my way up the driveway forty years and hundreds of visits later, memories of my headmaster's mark lll Cortina, the birdlike elderly woman who pinched at the sleeves of my coat and the dancing man with the dewdrop on his nose shadow my thoughts. This place, and the surrounding area will always be associated with that time. It will always be a creepy 1970s Children’s Film Foundation location with a Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack and there’s nothing my diligently objective re-appraisals can do about it.

I make my way down into the village and deliver mail addressed to the surnames of old schoolmates: Walker, Bowden, Wadsworth, Dyson, Armitage, Burgess, Cockroft, Hamshore, Battye, Booth, Haigh, Broadbent, Brown, Brook, Sykes, Gledhill, Holmes, Berry, Rollinson, Whitehead, Beever…

A man who looks like 70s Everton FC hero Bob Latchford is unloading groceries from the back of a Fiat Doblo but apart from him and the cat who is sleeping on the bin liner of garden waste outside number 31, the streets are deserted.

I leave parcels on doorsteps, knock on doors and back off to a safe distance like Mr Mackay at the school firework display.

“Cheers, bud! Stay safe, you’re doing a great job” says the man with the grey beard.

A woman’s voice, slightly muffled on the other side of a cypress hedge: “He says when the vaccine comes out he’s just gonna buy it and get us all done no matter how much it costs”.

Up the hill, past the farm with no doubt a very dangerous slurry pit, past the Miss Haversham gables of the old vicarage, past the jackdaws bickering in the belfry, past the postbox and the pub, past the field of lambs and mangold wurzels to the brick semis with the tongue and groove fascias—pansies in pots on the doorsteps. A landline rings from behind a glass front door. A man’s voice, “There’s people on at me who don’t even know when their next fucking wage is coming in…”

At the last house in the village, opposite the field where the dangerous geese live, the garden has been modernised; tiny squiggles of terrier shit glisten on the plastic turf.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

It’s a cold, clear morning. The woodpigeons and magpies are backed by songbirds

It’s a cold, clear morning. The woodpigeons and magpies are backed by songbirds. There’s a red light down in the railway cutting, a fine misty drizzle. Forsythia. 

It’s 6.30am and the grey haired man in the golfing sweater is readying a Ford Focus for an early morning trip to the supermarket.

In the park the bins have been pushed over again—the heavy cast iron ones, and somebody has written the words ‘Ass’ and ‘Hole’ in large letters on the path with spray paint.

A small skein of geese honks in to land on the pond by the bandstand.

Outside the Tesco on John William Street, a pair of crows are eating a rat, they hop up into a tree as I approach and issue noisy threats until I pass.

A woman’s loud cackle echos up from the market place where the stallholders are setting up.

On past the pair of discarded orange ski boots in the cotoneaster next to the graffitied junction box.

* * * * * * * *

The chatter of jackdaws, the drumming of a woodpecker and a distant ambulance siren swirl around the 1970s village.

Daffodils have grown to obscure the faded Beware of the Dog sign at the house where the dog died five years ago.

At the off-kilter Victorian mansion, the recycling bins are full of expanding foam and the foxes have been at the rubbish again; litter is strewn down the driveway, paper and cans are trapped in the brambles. I pass the half derelict coal bunker, its scattered contents, and the unusual large orange shovel which is in a different place every morning. It’s like a crime scene from a Children’s Film Foundation film. At the overgrown entrance, the man in the high-vis vest and cargo pants is leaning on the wall. He rolls a hard boiled egg in his hands, picks off the broken shell and pops it into his mouth whole.

On the estate of semi-detached bungalows there’s a noisy dispute between two neighbours about a hedge and some pruning. Over the road, Mrs Norcliffe takes the opportunity to grab a bunch of dead flowers from the windowsill in the kitchen. She flaps outside to the bins in fluffy slippers and cardy. She’s all ears.

Coronavirus ‘Wash Your Hands’ posters are Blu-tacked to the windows of the school. In the carpark a young woman is loading a large brass instrument into the boot of a Fiesta.

I ask the woman in the bath robe and slippers, her hair all stuck up on one side, whether she’ll take in a parcel for her neighbour. “No” she says, “I’m just off out”. I try the next neighbour along, an upstairs window opens, “Sorry, love. Can’t answer the door. Suspected coronavirus”.

Out in the sticks, I pass pensioners out walking, pensioners on horseback, cycling pensioners in lycra and pensioners going into the pub for lunch. “I tell you what,” says the windswept pensioner in the car park with the bag-for-life featuring a close up photograph of some strawberries, “If everyone came outside in this sunshine, it’d kill it off”.

A big new BMW passes slowly, the driver is eating mashed potato from a tray in his lap with a stainless dining fork.

Doorstep diorama of the day: a VW camper van the size of a small toaster is dwarfed by the man in the colourful plaid suit whose cranium has been planted with crocuses. Between them, a small stone dragon is curled up, asleep.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

6.00am. Driving sleet storms my waterproofs


Driving sleet storms my waterproofs, cars skim through deluged streets, a noisy wagon sluices spray from the gutter and the thrush in the tree at the entrance to the park is singing so loudly I can hear him from Dingle Road, 250 yards away.

6.10am. Street lamps refract through raindrops gathered on the telegraph wire which hangs across the road like a garland of fairy lights. Below, at the bus stop, the man in the smart black shoes, suit trousers and Parka jacket is smoking some very strong weed.

6.20am. Exposed on the flyover, I hold on to my hat as a train brakes sadly into the station behind the derelict warehouse. A pint glass, three-quarters full of an artisan porter has been discarded on the pavement next to the junction box opposite the pub and, twenty yards further on, there’s a quarter of a bottle of Coca Cola in an abandoned shopping trolley on Byram Street.

Two dozen bleached plastic planters containing dry twigs, sweet wrappers and the odd new shoot guard the entrance to the flats. “All right, mate?” Says the man who is replacing the stolen top stones.

Around the back of the back-to-backs, the top stones haven’t been replaced, neither have the paving flags. Deep mud abuts front steps. Miry bog gardens are littered with the smashed and filthy possessions of previous tenants; sodden mattresses, TV’s, plastic toys, clothes and the ubiquitous cinder toffee globules of expanding foam. The gloopy and blackened remains of a burnt out wheelie bin and its contents renders one house inaccessible.

Twenty yard litter survey:
A plastic takeaway box
A McDonalds takeout cup
The lid from a wheelie bin
A wet wipe
The wrapper from a Cadbury’s Fudge
A dented old fashioned galvanised bucket
A washing up bowl
Another McDonalds cup
A section of foam pipe-lagging
A Pepsi can
A parking ticket
Some foil packaging
Some plastic pre-packed sandwich packaging
An Oranjeboom can
A Budweiser can
A Kinder Bueno wrapper
A plastic bag
A Costa coffee cup
A cardboard box
An Irn Bru can
A burst bin liner and contents
Two unbranded takeout cups

“Fuck off!” says the thin man to his dog at the house that smells of piss.

A young man in a tracksuit refuses to take in a parcel for his neighbours because he doesn’t really like them. A few doors down, the stone Buddha sits serenely in the garden contemplating the upturned wheelie bin, the overgrown couch grass, the five deflated footballs, the three McDonalds takeout cups, the upside down three piece suite and the dog shit.

The window cleaner is sick of all this wind and rain.

The woman in the done-up-to-the-top anorak is sick of all this dog muck.

Mr Walker is sick of his next door neighbour.

I follow the thin man with the grey ponytail, too short jogging pants and undone safety boots up the main road. He farts loudly and repeatedly. 

The wind blows the lid from a green wheelie bin and it glances off my shoulder.

It’s cold and still sleeting steadily as I make my way up the long steep terrace. A dog is howling inside one of the houses near the top. A man wearing red and blue checked pyjamas and black trainers opens his front door. “Have you got owt for us?” He asks. “No” I say and he sets off up his path fixing some ear buds into his ears. He opens his gate and sets off up the road waving to the old man on the mobility scooter whose single very pale leg is naked almost to the hip apart from an open toed sandal and a pair of very short shorts.

Back out on the main road I pass the empty three litre bottle of Ace cider and the shuttlecock. The pavement is narrow, cars are parked nose to tail and the privet is overgrown; I have to lean over to one side as I walk. A fat man of about forty-five with a broken nose almost rides into me on a mountain bike with a too low seat. “Wooaah!” he exclaims as he slams on and skids to a stop about a foot away from me. We squeeze past each other. He doesn’t say anything, just rides off trailing weed smoke with his arse crack showing. An hour later I see him again, he’s going in the opposite direction this time. He swerves round a wheelie bin and hits the wing mirror of a parked Peugeot Partner.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Someone has pushed over all the bins between my house and the town centre.

Someone has pushed over all the bins between my house and the town centre.

The snow storm passes and the sun comes out. The builder in baggy old jeans and beanie hat pulls up his van next to the high stone wall with the duvet of ivy slung over it. He climbs out and unseals a loaf of sliced bread with his teeth. He holds the top of the open bag in one hand as it untwists and then begins throwing one slice at a time onto the roof of an electricity substation.

Mrs Hicks has spilt something down her front. She’s in the kitchen window dabbing at her black and white striped jumper with a damp cloth. Behind her, at the kitchen island, Mr Hicks sits with his laptop open. In the road outside, a jackdaw is eating a flattened squirrel.
A Border collie barks at me through the gate of the big house on the moor. On the driveway, a man in a hunter’s cap and steel toe cap boots looks up from under the bonnet of an old Citroen Dispatch and shouts over ‘Oh shut up, you poof!’

The low sun heightens the green of the herringbone moss on the driveway at Shangri-La and there’s a noisy nuthatch at the edge of the park. Smashed tree litter lines both sides of the road, flotsam from the storm crushed by dog walkers’ cars.

At the firework factory, staff in hi-vis anoraks drive around in Land Rovers with no number plates.

On the estate where pretend owls outnumber the human population by two to one, the woman in the big 1980s style specs and Lurex knitwear is having some Double 4 Designer Traditional Vintage Cream Vinyl Plastic Cladding fitted to her gable end. A few doors down a woman calls me a knob and says she’s never been so shocked in all her life because of my ignorance of the arbitrary regulations she has devised for the use of her parcel box.