I’d just passed the single, left footed bowling shoe in the gutter—just before the pub chalkboard that’s had 'Bitchcraft' written on it for weeks—when a young man in a black tracksuit with white trim passed at full throttle and very high volume, standing up on an exhausted old scooter. “That’ll be stolen”, said 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’.
Earlier, in the valley bottom, where the moss on the dry stone walls is almost fluorescent, I watched 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 TNT delivery man rolled his eyes and said, ‘Twat’, not quite under his breath as he tried to write out a form in a squall.
Further down, by the joiner’s shop where it smells of sawdust, a large woman in jodhpurs completely ignored me even though her brown labrador had taken a keen interest in the backs of my knees.