On the estate where pretend owls outnumber the human population by two to one, a woman tends her plastic window boxes. She wears gold-rimmed Reactolites, pink marigold gloves, flip-flops and a grey fleece jacket and trouser combination. Her patio of pink stone flags with electric cabling running through the joints, is decorated with an assortment of garden ornamentation: a gnome riding on a snail’s shell, a pair of disembodied hands holding a small bird with a solar panel in its back and a lamp in its chest, a hedgehog riding a tractor. A poodle startles the sparrows from the beech hedge. it makes me jump and I nearly trip over the statue of the top half of a woman with no arms.
11.45am: A man with mashed potato and lamb mince down the front of his shirt opens his window to offer me directions but I’m not lost. Next door, a woman with a Summer Wine perm and a grey cardigan answers her door. Her mouth is full and there’s quite a large piece of flaky pastry stuck to her cheek, “Hankfs Flhuff”, she says, as I hand her her parcel.
At the house that always smells of dog piss and stale cigarettes, an old man opens the window to take his mail. “You’re looking very smart in your uniform today, sir”, he says, “Good for you, sir. Good for you.”
I cross the rec’, adding another trail of footprints in the dew. A woman in a pink fleece jacket throws a blue ball with an orange launcher for her Jack Russell terrier, Muff, to fetch.
“More rubbish!” says the man at number 14 when he sees me coming, “I’m gonna put a letterbox on my dustbin so you can post it straight in”. “Oh, leave him alone, he gets paid for that”, says his wife from her plastic patio chair. She’s thumbing through a magazine and smoking a cigarette. “Aye”, says the man, “and the bin men get paid to take it away; the postman giveth and the bin man taketh away”. “Aye, it keeps the world going round though dun’t it, love”, says the woman, winking at me.
The weather turns and the short, rotund woman with the russet dyed almost grown out perm, grey roots and purple anorak is sheltering under her blown inside-out umbrella at the bus-stop. “In’t it awful weather!” she shouts across the road. I agree.