Saturday, 21 December 2013
The old man with the bag-4-life and the beige anorak didn’t have his hair styled in an incongruous mohican…
The old man with the bag-for-life and the beige anorak hasn’t got a mohican hairstyle, it's a shadow cast by the lamppost across his bald head by the low winter sun.
The sky blows from black to blue and back again: leaves, jackdaws, Tesco bags, starlings and fieldfares windswept under brief rainbows.
All morning, the police helicopter has been hovering above the estate where armed police are shouting at a man in a t-shirt decorated with distressed appliqué text.
At the other end of the road, the young woman with the big afro is reading a psychology textbook while two fat men in black satin shirts, elaborate tattoos, shiny grey slacks and light tan, chisel-toe mock-crocodile shoes carry large boxes into her house and call her darling.
A few doors up, a man with a strong eastern European accent explains from an upstairs window why he can’t open his front door, “I bought a couch. It is too big. I can’t open the door”.
The contents of the next house down have been dumped in miry puddles in the front garden: a pair of Ugg boots, a hi-fi system, a two-foot-tall vase, an upside-down sofa...
I park up next to a discarded boat and drink coffee from a flask while a man smoking weed with his coat only half on, takes his small daughter to the newsagent in her reindeer onesie.
Monday, 25 November 2013
At the entrance to the park, the shaggy Border collie called Chicken was being restrained by its owner…
At the entrance to the park, a shaggy Border collie called Chicken is being restrained by its owner: “No, Chicken! Leave it! Chicken! No!”
At one of the houses that backs onto the green, a thin bald man in a fleece jacket and faded jeans is carefully stencilling the names Brian and Susan onto the back rest of a wooden bench in a swirly gold font. I pass him as he’s admiring his work. He glances up and waves briefly before walking up the gravel path, past the little tableau on the lawn: a stone tortoise apparently engaged in combat with a tiny plastic second world war infantryman that has been painted white. At the entrance to the conservatory, the man places his unlit roll-up on the window sill, kicks off his boots and disappears inside behind a bookcase of faded hardback autobiography spines: Botham, Clough, Greavsie …
Saturday, 9 November 2013
I knocked at a door on the estate of Range Rovers and shop bought topiary, where the fake cobblestones still have their barcodes stuck to them. Inside the house a dog barked enthusiastically while a woman implored it to “Stay in there, you!” Eventually, the door shuddered open to reveal the woman in a Fair Isle onesie, holding the dog by its collar. “He’s just bloody humped the gas man,” she explained, “I’m not letting him near you!”
It’s quiet around here among the lawns, the winter flowering pansies, the lavender, and the leylandii. There are more tradesmens' vans than residents’ cars during the day. Occasionally, a disembodied arm extends from an open window to shake crumbs from a tea towel or an immaculate twelve year old Nissan Primera reverses slowly from a driveway. On the pavement outside the pebble-dashed inter-war bungalow with the rotten timber frames and the dangerous chimneys, a cat is fighting with a marigold glove. Further down, where the three empty cider bottles have been left in a neat row under the hawthorn, an elderly man hobbles by in a threadbare camel-hair coat secured at the waist with packing tape. In the gutter, a light breeze fans the pages of a discarded Max Hastings novel and, at the bottom of the cul-de-sac, an old woman bends to pick up a Virgin Media flyer from her doormat, “Red hot sale!” she says, rolling her eyes, “That’s going straight in the bin! I don’t even believe in Richard Branson!”
Friday, 11 October 2013
It’s been windy today and the bird shit stained section of the road below the canopy of the trees at the entrance to the estate is now completely covered with leaves.
A woman with Cosmic Purple hair and a boat neck Breton shirt walks a black cat on a lead around the perimeter of her garden. She stretches out her left hand for support against the gable wall as she negotiates the narrow gravel path which is lined on both sides with a variety of cat statuettes.
An elderly woman with a nicotine yellow perm and a purple anorak passes me. She’s conducting a loud conversation with a man in a beanie hat and an enormous jumper:
Sunday, 29 September 2013
I gave Molly a lift home from school. ‘This week has gone so quickly’ she said, ‘I can’t believe it’s nearly next weekend already’. We passed the bus stop where a man dressed as a ninja with two sticks of french bread under his arm was struggling to light a cigarette without dropping them.
It was bright and sunny again, quiet and calm days out in the sticks. I could hear power tools and dogs barking half a mile away. A couple in their sixties wearing matching plaid shirts (hers accessorised with a brown leather belt at the waist) were walking perfectly in step through the village. They synchronously tore pieces from their pasties and chewed in unison. When somebody they knew passed them in a car, they noticed simultaneously, both glancing up at the same time before breaking into smiles and holding aloft their right hands to wave.
An old woman was talking to her gardener about the neighbour who had recently returned from a holiday abroad: ‘Have you seen his suntan? He’s so dark! I didn’t want to let him in. I don’t usually let people that colour in the house!’
Autumn spiders have moved in on the flies that have been basking on the white UPVC doors. Silk shrouded baubles of pre-digested carcass dangle from the pretend wooden beading, bobbing silently in the light breeze.
Saturday, 21 September 2013
Down from where the giant mechanical dinosaur has been tearing at the walls of the old YMCA building…
Down from where the giant mechanical dinosaur has been tearing at the walls of the old YMCA building, three short men were pulling on green hi-vis jackets and switching on an improvised lightbox sign: Hand Car Wash Now Open. 300 yards further down the road again, a short man in a grey tracksuit was dwarfed by the 7’ high sandwich board that he was dragging out onto the pavement: Hand Car Wash Now Open.
The weather has turned. In the sticks, people in trademarked waterproof fabrics suffixed with ‘tec’, swarm around the blackberry bushes in the lanes while streams of run-off carry acorns, twigs and beech nut husks around their Brashers. On Woodsome Road I swerved around the well-wrapped, backpacked Nordic-walking couple who had eschewed the generous pavements in favour of the middle of the road.
In town, flies were basking in the last of the residual heat from the white UPVC doors and fascia boards. I disturbed some when I knocked at a house on Moss Street and got a face full. They were swarming around the overflowing green re-cyclers that the new students have mistaken for normal refuse bins too. The bin men have left them on the pavements along the length of Elm Street
The golf club was swarming with regional representatives of the Kitchen and Bathroom industry at their annual networking event. A man with a receding hairline, grey slacks and a fleece jacket stepped out of a van decorated with a wraparound livery featuring a naked young woman enjoying a shower.
Sunday, 1 September 2013
At the bus stop, the man with the grey beard, striped polo-shirt and large silver watch was bent over...
At the bus stop, the man with the grey beard, striped polo-shirt and large silver watch was bent over scratching both his knee and his elbow at the same time. Across the road, another man with a striped shirt and grey beard was painting his gate bright yellow for the second day running. Further up the road, at the next bus stop, a young man in a snapback baseball cap and headphones was dancing enthusiastically by himself. And, around the corner, on Cross Lane, I saw the same man delivering the same flyers to the same houses I saw yesterday.
Six squirrel sightings today: two in trees, one running along the edge of a skip and three dead in the road.
Somebody had lit a bonfire too close to the Costcutter. Even inside the shop, the smoke was acrid. A teenage couple were standing outside. He had a tattoo on his neck and was gobbing on the floor. She was wafting the smoke from her face with her cigarette hand and hoicking her grey marl sweatpants out of her arse crack with the other. A Ford Fiesta went past in too low a gear.
On the estate with the diverse and imaginatively improvised garden furniture, a boy on a BMX stopped me as I was unloading my van:
Sunday, 4 August 2013
On the way to the bus stop, I almost collided with the fully loaded, seven foot high floral display unit on wheels.
Rushing to catch the bus, I almost collide with the fully loaded, seven foot high floral display unit on wheels. A thin man in a tracksuit is pushing it down the street to the entrance of The Bargain Shop. He parks it up and attaches an A4 handwritten sign to it with sellotape: ‘MEGA CHEAP CHEESE IN FRIDGE’.
I miss my bus. I watch it go past as I’m telling the tall man in the mauve shirt and black, pleat-front straight-cut short-leg perma-crease trousers how to get to the Ann Summers shop.
Chapel Street smells of perming solution again. Struggling up it, the old woman with swollen ankles and two bags of shopping says “I wish someone would turn this bloody hill round”.
I compliment the elderly man on his work, he’s been building a shed all week and it is impressively level, despite the extreme incline of the ground. I shout over to him three or four times but I think he must be hard of hearing because he just smiles and makes comments about the weather and an appointment at the hospital he’s got to remember.
On the estate where elderly women with perms, mid-calf length skirts and sandals walk terriers and knock on one another’s doors holding polythene bags, I’ve been stopping for a chat with the man with the southern accent who sits outside his house on a mobility scooter. Today, he’s not there. His wife is though, on an old bentwood chair on the patio next to the statue of a meerkat with a magpie’s feather glued into its paw. “Your mate’s not here today,” she says “He’s gone down there to get some rolls”. She waves an arm in the direction of the shops. “He calls teacakes ‘rolls’!” she laughs.
Saturday, 20 July 2013
The small grey pony is pulling the large brown pony’s mane and tail. Every so often, the brown one retaliates but it only puts the grey off for a few seconds before it starts again. They’ve been at it for at least twenty minutes. The butterflies are squabbling too (Are they squabbling, or are they procreating?)
Earlier, after I’d set off a chain of barking dogs by walking up Fairfield Rise, I passed the large woman in the sunglasses, vest top and tattoos. She was parked-up in a silver Astra making a loud phone call: “Gary only came out for a smidgeon, then he’s got back inside the house!”
A man and his grandson are having a tetchy argument as they buff opposite alloys of a five year old Ford Fiesta. “Why do you keep saying that when you know it’s not true?” repeats the grandson for the third time.
In the sticks, old men in flat caps and short-sleeved khaki shirts drive immaculate ten year old saloons round the lanes, their wing mirrors thrashing through overgrown leylandii, dead flies accumulating on the plastic remembrance day poppies cable-tied to their radiator grills. There is honeysuckle everywhere.
Shadows are strong, the road is sticky and the weeds on the verges have turned to straw. Shiny men wearing nothing but shorts and trainers make busy noises. Past the derelict asylum and the road cone with the Greggs bag stuffed into the top, I knock off my hat on a washing line next to the parked milliner's van and the man at the bus stop, who is riding so low that his pubeless cock cleavage is clearly visible, laughs out loud.
Saturday, 6 July 2013
The short but substantial man with the unruly hair, sun visor, T-shirt, cargo shorts—keys attached to belt—and steel toe-capped boots says “Hello, Kevin” as I pass. He props an old glass panelled front door up against the cellar doorway of the Working Men’s Club. I’ve got no idea how he knows my name.
On the edge of the moor, at the end-terrace with the imitation stone grotesques on the garden wall, the imitation leaded lights in the windows and the imitation wood front door, Mrs Dyson’s bathrobe has blown from the rotary washing line, over the wall and onto the windscreen of the red Ferrari 348 that is parked in the road.
Around the corner, an indiscrete dope deal is taking place; a young man wearing a snapback baseball cap has double parked his hatchback adjacent to another young man wearing a snapback baseball cap in a different hatchback. They exchange small packages through open windows. After a couple of minutes, the double parked young-man-in-a-baseball-cap pulls up to the kerb, gets out of his hatchback and into the other man’s passenger seat where the two of them share a very strong smelling joint together.
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Strong shadows. Stained asphalt: oil, moss, blackened chewing gum, blobs of melted chocolate, strange bleached footprints, a criss-cross of tyre tracks in a patch of spilt concrete, lichen (Is it lichen or is it bird shit?) broken glass that glistens in the gutter, dust (not mud), the long dribble of white paint from the top of Orchard Terrace down to where that man is always mending his Volvo. The man who is always mending his Volvo has a sweat on today; he has ordered the wrong size cylinder-head O-rings.
Two filthy men in a knackered Transit pickup with old household radiator greedy-boards crawl by, eyeing the gardens for junk. The passenger, a skinny man with a torn T-shirt and a missing tooth, holds up a pornographic centrefold out of the window as they pass, "My bird!" he yells to me.
Monday, 27 May 2013
The noisy fracas among the sparrows in the hedgerow had been going on for some time. At one point it had been so heated that it had set the dog barking but it came to an abrupt halt when the woman in the niqab shuffled past, weighed down with carrier bags full of yoghurt.
Around the corner, a woman in her fifties with a bleached blonde perm and a pink towelling bathrobe was bagging up dog shit in the middle of the road. Another woman at the bus stop looked on. Seemingly caught out by the warm weather, she was sweating in her heavy quilted purple anorak with fur collar.
I was contemplating Mrs Begum’s lampshade—I’m pretty sure it’s on upside-down—when my attention was drawn to a passing young woman; her facial complexion didn’t match that of her décolletage by a profound distance. Happily though, it was a near perfect match for her flesh coloured leggings.
The thin woman in the skinny jeans was making a noisy phone call while supervising two toddlers in the park. “If they’re trying to take the piss again, they can kiss my arse!” she shouted, before breaking off suddenly to reprimand the children, muting the phone with her hand. “Hit her back! Fucking hit her back! Fucking hell, Jade, stop being such a fucking wuss!”
As the morning wore on, the streets filled up with massive men in enormous shirts eating pasties from paper bags. They mainly called each other "Pal" and discussed cars.
Saturday, 27 April 2013
Another bright, sunny morning. I follow the chubby bald fifty-year-old paper boy into the newsagent’s where the man with the intense stare tries to sell me some honey roasted peanuts. “You wanna try them,” he says without blinking, “They’re proper nice, they are.” I refuse and, as I step back outside it starts to rain heavily. The sky clouds over and the temperature drops. I think about going back and buying the nuts but the rain stops as suddenly as it had started. it stays cold though and it's a full half hour before the Reactolite lenses of the people in fleece jackets go dark again.
Outside the church hall where I was once accused of smoking ‘wacky baccy’ at a wedding reception, the snow that had lined the kerb has given way to dried horse shit, tree litter and slug trails. Large men walk small dogs and large women talk at the bus stop: “I was supposed to be going to Diane’s but I can’t walk nowhere, I’m in agony.” One man’s heels are overhanging the back of his Crocs by about an inch and a half. Another man, who is having his lunch at 11.30 a.m., remarks, “Fucking hell, them Chinese give ‘emselves some right names, don’t they?”
I walk up the ring road behind two young men in washed out tracksuits. The taller one is walking a Staffordshire bull terrier on a lead. His swagger is so pronounced that he eventually builds up too much sideways momentum and stumbles, almost tripping over. To cover his embarrassment, he begins a vigorous air punching workout which results in his dog being yanked violently sideways with every right jab. The other man isn’t paying attention to his companion, he has half his arm down the back of his tracksuit pants and is scratching his arse while he wolf whistles at the girl in dark glasses walking down the other side of the road.
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
"Why would anyone want to punch a police horse?" asks the man on the bus, glancing up from his paper. I say I don't know.
Sunday, 7 April 2013
In the street that smells of meat, the man who looks like my old headmaster was inspecting a discarded cigarette packet...
In the street that smells of meat, the man who looks like my old headmaster is inspecting a discarded cigarette packet while a younger man, who is smoking weed and wearing headphones does hundreds of keepie-uppies in the road.
On Easter Sunday some of the tenants of the flats were kept awake until 1.30am by loud music according to the handwritten note pinned to the front door.
I see Jonny, he’s petting the beautiful Burmese cat in Warneford Road. He says he thinks it’s so fine looking it could probably win Crufts even though it isn’t a dog.
The gardens on the evens side of the estate are still under deep snow. At number 36, only the top of the wheelie bin with the sticker of the tropical beach scene on it is visible because of the drifting. Outside number 12, an uncomfortable looking grey-haired woman in an overcoat and Reactolite glasses is waiting at the bus stop with three drunks who are arguing over a bottle of White Lightning.
Further down, at the house with the threadbare Union-Jack doormat, an elderly woman with a tomato stain on her beige duffle coat asks me whether I’ve seen the bin men. “I’m seventy-six years old” she says, “They shouldn’t do this to me. It’s upsetting. I put it out and they’ve missed me again!” I tell the woman I haven’t seen the bin men, just the Wheelie Wash man who comes along in their wake. I hand her her mail: promotional material from Boots about health and beauty products that can supercharge Your wellbeing. “I’ll not be needing that!” she says, “It’s going straight in the bin—if it’ll fit!”
On the main road, just down from the house called The Britvic at number 55, an elderly man with a pull-along shopping cart and thick plastic-rimmed glasses stops me. “He’s mad, isn’t he?” he says. “Who?” I ask. “That silly man from the government who says we can live on fifty-three pounds a week. I think he must be bloody mental! And that footballer! They’ve all gone bloody mental!”
When I get back to the office my workmates are reminiscing about a retired colleague who once reversed his van into his own car, touched up the damage with Dulux, and then drove to Blackpool to “dry it off”. They ask me whether I remember him. I say I do, but our shifts hadn’t overlapped. I used to cycle home in my trainers, so I’d leave my work boots at the office overnight where, without my knowledge, for several years, he wore them for the duration of his night shift, replacing them before I arrived for work again the next morning.
Sunday, 17 March 2013
6am and light. The sky is cloudless apart from the gas flue vapour that leaks vertically from the houses on Church Street and the zig-zag trail left by a confused pilot above them.
Wednesday, 6 March 2013
The Most Difficult Thing Ever at Huddersfield Literature Festival 2013.
On Thursday 14th March 2013 at Café Ollo, Huddersfield, UK at 7pm
Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/175985092548607/
And again on Friday 15th March 2013 at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, UK from 6pm Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/474398215947569/
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
The blackbird I often see at the entrance to the park is perched on the gates for the second day running
The blackbird I often see at the entrance to the park is perched on the gates for the second day running. It doesn’t fly away when I pass. It watches me. I walk within a couple of feet of it today and it doesn’t flinch.
The sun is out, the sky is blue. There is birdsong: sparrows, starlings, a woodpigeon. Somebody is playing a trumpet. A car pulls away from the kerb and its tyres crackle and pop on dry asphalt.
A man of about fifty, wearing double denim and a black and white bandana tied around his head, is using the phone box that I’ve never really noticed before.
on the window sills. There are plastic lawns, footballs, grit bins. There are ‘moneysavingexpert.com’ A4 print-outs Blu-Tacked to porch windows saying ‘No Cold Callers’. There are whistling Eddie Stobart collectors in t-shirts smoking Marlboro cigarettes on hardstandings. They build kit cars and boats and take things to pieces. There’s the smell of machine oil. There’s the smell of cooking oil. There are chips. There are solid homemade repairs, gates and fences, washers and hinges, ironmongery, fixings and grease. There are guinea pigs in hutches and terriers on the backs of settees. Girls play at hopscotch and boys dress as superheroes while they mend punctures with holes in their knees.
A man insists I watch as he opens a parcel. Inside it, there is a small statuette of a blackbird perched on a twig.
Thursday, 14 February 2013
Yesterday, On the street that smells of strong weed, a man borrowed my lighter to set fire to an old piece of coir matting. A few doors down, on the step of the end terrace, the white plastic cup of water with the dead fly floating in it and red lipstick on its rim was still there, but today, there was a saturated tampon next to it as well.
Tuesday, 5 February 2013
The cats in Heaton Gardens make noises like stricken toddlers.
Lots of pheasants today. Most are padding aimlessly around the verges of the farm tracks, but one was prone across Mr Etchell’s knee on an old bentwood chair in the corner of his garage, being plucked.
The woman in the red Ford Fiesta has a large antique mantel clock on her knee. She winds down her window to ask whether I have a parcel for her. When I tell her I haven’t, she says that according to the website the parcel was delivered last Friday despite the fact she only ordered it yesterday. “Maybe there’s a hole in the space-time continuum?” I suggest. “No, I think they must have given me the wrong tracking number” says the woman.
It’s snowing heavily again and the farmyard is littered with dead teasels and broken plastic safety barriers. The filthy collie strains at the chain that tethers it to its dirty white plastic igloo kennel. In the lane, a metallic blue 4x4 BMW nearly hits me outside the house where the elderly Over 60s Club volunteer sisters live—with the Support the Lifeboats and Help for Heroes stickers in the window: “She reckons we should go down and open up but they’ll not venture out in this, not them that’s in their eighties!”
On the bus, the man in his sixties asks the man in his twenties whether he’s “Off down The Royal Oak to watch the United game”. “I thought they’d turned The Oak into a mosque.” “No, they knocked that idea on the head in the end.” “Well, it was never right popular when they mooted it.”
Friday, 25 January 2013
As he left the house where the pointing has been patched with expanding foam, the man in the black tracksuit top with white trim stumbled over the soiled nappies on the doorstep. He kicked at them in frustration and then stuck two fingers up at the twelve-month-old baby girl who was dribbling over the shoulder of the young woman with the home-dyed ponytail as she made her way down the steps in front of him.
Out on the main road, two other young women with home-dyed ponytails had braved the sub-zero weather conditions to have a fist fight in the middle of the street. They both successfully landed several punches to each other's heads while screaming abuse and tearing at one another's vest tops. Two men in bare feet and flip-flops gingerly picked their way around them—and the ice—on their way to the bus stop.
In the rec' behind the house with seven cars on the drive and nobody ever at home, another man in a black tracksuit top with white trim had pulled down the tyre from the swing and was throwing it at his Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
I saw the flock of waxwings in the church gardens again; the fourth day running.