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.
In Primitive Street, a gust of wind blows an empty lager can from one kerb to the other while two drunks are discussing the whereabouts of Jade. "Where is she?" asks the one in the faded blue anorak with the saggy pockets.
"I don't know,” says the other, "she spat in my face about two years ago.”
A woman in her fifties in a T-shirt with a skull motif on it almost falls as she gets out of the back of a VW Golf before it has stopped. "Oh, yeah! Just reverse over me why don't you!" she yells at the driver before running across the road and slipping over on her greasy Yorkstone path. "Grrr! I'm having a really bad day!" she shouts as she gets back on her feet and rubs her hip. She opens her front door and an excited terrier shoots out and runs off down the street before she can stop it. "Now the dog's got out!"
Out on the new estate: fake-sandstone-beige and UPVC-white with accents of grit-bin and Cold-Caller-Control-Zone-sticker yellow. The background noise of burglar alarms, wind-chimes, squabbling blackbirds, shouting PE teachers and that weird clanging from the insides of swaying metal street lamps, is occasionally drowned out by the engine of the JCB whose driver is concentrating so hard that his tongue is poking out. The fake ornamental bay trees have blown over onto the plastic lawn where the high-pitched cat deterrent is repeatedly triggered by the swirling leaves and bobbing daffodils.
There are sea urchins and highly glazed period folk on windowsills and solar panels on roofs. And there are dogs: people without shoes open doors while holding dogs by the collar. There are unencumbered and determined grey haired men in navy blue fleeces pounding the streets. Teeth gritted, they march up hills, arms outstretched for extra balance along uneven nascent desire lines—past the stalled mums with their hoods up against the drizzle, pushchairs and retrievers in one hand, they reach out for their straggling toddlers with the other.
I've seen waxwings and swallows within a week of each other.
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 had been kept awake until 1.30 a.m. 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 told the woman I hadn’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 asked.
"That silly man from the government who says we can live on £53 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, unknown to me, for several years, he wore them for the duration of his night shift, replacing them before I arrived for work again the next morning.