“Have you got owt for me?” says the bald man with the big jeans and the paintbrush in his hand. I hand him an envelope from the DVLA. “Car tax”, says the man. “Have a guess how much—go on. I bet it’ll be £225.” “What kind of car have you got?” I ask. “A V70. I can’t be doing with small cars. What have you got?” “A little Skoda. It’s old”, I say. “Crappy little things. No disrespect to you, I just can’t be doing with them.” “I’ve never bought a new car”, I say. “I’ve bought twenty-four. I’ve got two at the moment. The Volvo and a BMW. I need two because I’m going up to Scotland for a few days.” The man tears open the envelope and unfolds the letter. “£205. Not as bad as I thought! It’s a lot though, isn’t it? It adds up; it’s four quid a week that. I was self-employed for twenty-five year but I’ve passed all the work on to someone else, just walked away from it. Still got my name running around on fifteen vans mind.” The man waves his paintbrush at his driveway, “just got a quote to get that re-surfaced: five and a half grand. Would you pay that?” “No”, I say. “No, but even if you had the money, would you?” “I suppose I might. I don’t know.” “I’m seventy year old. What’s the point? I’d only be doing it for someone else, wouldn’t I?” The man looks up at the window frame he’s painting and says “Anyway, you’d better let me get on. See you lad”.
The young couple with the tattoos and the toddler at number 201 have fastened a VW badge to their front door.
A skinhead in combat fatigues who is smoking weed asks me for directions to his own house.