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.

There is horse shit in the road. Further up the valley, there are boxy 1970s brick-built semis with white fascia boards that creek loudly in the sun. There are big picture windows. There are Astras, Minis, Astras, Beetles, Astras, Minis and Astras on uneven concrete and aubretia driveways. There
are monolithic decapitated leylandii as big as houses. There are birch and willow, catkins and moss. There are two pieces of litter: an empty Muller Rice pot and a novelty shaped luminous yellow pencil eraser. There’s a Union Jack and a Get Britain Out of the EU poster. There are silk flowers

on the window sills. There are plastic lawns, footballs, grit bins. There are ‘’ 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

On the street that smells of strong weed...

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.

A dozen or so coots were on the beck that runs through the field off Bridge Lane, near the ring of mole hills that surround the discarded CD. 

I walked through the university buildings behind a young woman with long dip-dyed hair and wet-look leggings. A lowered Honda Civic skidded to a halt next to her and began revving its engine wildly. The passenger, a young man with a goatee beard and a beanie hat, wound down his window and held out a lit joint towards her. He didn’t speak and his attempt to maintain a nonchalant disposition throughout the encounter was almost successful, only betrayed at the last by the merest eye-flicker of embarrassment when the girl completely ignored him. She barely even glanced up as she turned and walked away down a side street. The man wound up his window again and, wheels spinning in the gutter, he sped away.

The tall thin man I’ve often seen raiding the bins for food was in WH Smith’s. A dew drop fell from his nose and landed in the pages of the boxing magazine he was reading. He closed it and put it back on the shelf.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

6am: I walked through the park in a blizzard with a man with bow-legged wellingtons...

6am: I walk through the park in a blizzard alongside a bow-legged man in wellingtons. His head is bare and he has an unusual yellow overcoat. His name is Patrick and he’s off to Tesco’s. I comment on the snow and Patrick says he’ll be glad when it’s gone, “I bloody fell at the bins the other day, didn’t I? I was taking the rubbish out one minute, and the next I was flat on my back in the bloody snow. They say there’s more in the offing and all. I’m bloody sick of it”. Patrick says he doesn’t envy me my job in this weather. “I bet they pay you fuck all, and all” he says. “I spent twenty years working at the hospital between 1975 and 1979 but now I don’t bother because it’s not worth it.”

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.”