The man with the tartan Thermos, the pea-coat and the all-year-round woolly hat has started crossing the road when he sees me. We pass each other at 6am every morning and he’s often the only other person I see as I walk into work. After a few weeks of ignoring each other, I let on and said “Morning”. He didn’t reply. As time went by and I persisted, he started to respond but never seemed very comfortable with it. His eyes would start flickering nervously at me from about twenty yards away, I’d say “Morning” and he’d emit an awkward choking sound accompanied by a twitchy sideways glance. Now he crosses the road and keeps his eyes fixed on the pavement.
A man in a hooded North Face jacket, elaborately top-stitched jeans and Nike trainers is smoking a cigarette and fiddling with a Blackberry on the steps at the entrance to the flats. I say hello as I approach, assuming he’ll move across so I can get past. He doesn’t. He doesn’t respond or even glance up. I squeeze through, my bag scraping against
his knee, but he still doesn’t move or acknowledge my presence in any way. When I come out of the flats ten minutes later, the man is still there, smoking another cigarette and thumbing his Blackberry. I say hello again, he looks up, squints, pulls on his cigarette and looks down again.
Two overweight men in their thirties are talking as they walk past me on Ings Way, “I bet I fucking could”, says one. “I bet you fucking couldn’t”, says the other. “I bet I fucking could.” “You fucking couldn’t.” “I fucking could.” “You fucking couldn’t.” “I bet I fucking could...”
A woman in flat shoes and a very full skirt stops me in the street to tell me she’s been to the ninetieth birthday party of her pianist, “I’m in the choir at the Methodist. The cake was in the shape of a grand piano. It was sponge but it was lovely and moist”.