Tuesday 18 February 2014

The woman with the bit of cake on her face looked perplexed at the pair of boxing gloves in the road

The woman with the bit of cake on her face looks perplexed at the pair of boxing gloves in the road. It’s raining hard, occasionally sleeting, and the deluged streets dance in reflected light. I cross to the street that’s lined with empty pizza boxes, food tins, cooking sauce jars, energy drink cans, navy blue underpants, cerise pink shoes with missing heels, rolls of sodden carpet, mattresses, children’s plastic ride-on toys, a sofa, broken glass, an empty satnav box, and a massive burst-open bag of aggregate. Near the top, at one of the houses where they have sold all the stone flags from the yard and replaced them with dog shit, the woman with the tattoos and the bathrobe says, “Ooo, it’s snowing!” “I know”, I say. “I take it you don’t like snow.” “No, not really, it’s a bit inconvenient.” “Haha! I do”, she says, as she closes the door and disappears back inside her warm dry house.

Next door, the stocky terrier on the windowsill is on its hind legs, pulling down the curtains, its cock flopping from side to side as it scrabbles its front paws against the glass, trying to get a better purchase.

It’s still raining when I knock at the house with the crumbling concrete driveway to tell the owner that the driver’s door of the S-Class Mercedes saloon with the low profile tyres is wide open. A man in his late-twenties answers. He wears a meticulously manicured beard, three-quarter length tracksuit pants, flip-flops and a t-shirt. “Yeah”, he laughs, “I got to take it to the scrappers. Cheers, mate”.

Saturday 1 February 2014

I’d just passed the single, left footed bowling shoe in the gutter

As I pass the single, left-footed bowling shoe in the gutter, just before the pub chalkboard that’s had ‘Bitchcraft’ written on it for weeks, a young man in a black tracksuit with white trim passes loudly, standing up on an exhausted old scooter. “That’ll be stolen” says the toothless man with the tattoo teardrop from under his threadbare hoodie, “It’s a wonder he’s got a helmet on”.

Mr Mahmood has paved over the paving that he paved over his garden with. He’s laid some new, bright yellow concrete flags over the old cracked ones. He has used no bedding, mortar or fixture of any kind except at the edges where the flags adjoin his crumbling garden wall, just a lumpy smeared trail of cement runs around the perimeter joints.

Out in the sticks now, the wind is thrashing the trees and the sleet is thrashing my face as I slide around on slimy untreated millstone. It’s been wet and windy for weeks. The verges are scarred with deep miry tyre tracks and streams of run-off carry tree litter and even small branches along in the gutter. They are blasting at the quarry and a massive swirling flock of gulls is screeching overhead. Two bald men in black tracksuits with white trim are overseeing the cross country run around the perimeter of the school grounds. Dozens of teenagers straggle through the gap in the wall and splash past, all muddy ankles and too big t-shirts. A small, skinny boy with thick blond hair tells the taller heavier boy alongside him, “I was the fittest person with an inhaler at my old school”.

In the valley bottom, where the moss on the dry stone walls is almost fluorescent, I watch a pair of herons flap by and disappear over the horizon where you can see the tips of the wind turbines on the moor.

At the cottage with the electric gates, a delivery driver rolls his eyes and says, “Twat”, not quite under his breath as he tries to write out a form in a squall.