The buses were racing each other between stops. The world flew past the window in a blur: BEST CARPET BARGAINS … Klippers Hair Salon … Sambuca Saturday … Karaoke Thursday … MEGA BOXES FOR £8.99 … Royal Travel and Money Transfer … iTaste … Extra Care Housing … 2 For 1 on Essentials (illustrated with a photograph of a packet of digestive biscuits) … YOU CAN’T BUY CHEAPER … Gold International … LE UVST TIPE X [sic] … FREE BOTTLE OF POP. A man got on looking flustered in fake leather and Fair-Isle, “It’s always bloody late, this bus! He’s supposed to be five minutes in front of that other one”, he said out loud as he walked down the aisle. “Bloody rubbish!” He sat down next to me in a fug of damp and sweat. The woman in front of us with the grey perm and turquoise gaberdine coat turned around, “These people are much more helpful than the Metro people though,” she said, “And it’s 30p cheaper”, she added, her knuckles white on the hand rail as the bus swung out into the middle lane, overtaking its rival. “Go on, lad!” yelled the damp sweat man to the driver, pumping his fist.
A pride of door-to-door salesmen (beards, short-back-and-sides, black bomber jackets, black too-long-in-the-leg trousers, black winkle-pickers, black zip-up briefcases) were gobbing on the floor and vaping outside the Costcutter. I passed them on my way to the terrace of houses where, during the course of the last twenty-five years, the sheds, the painted lintels, the hebes and hawthorne, the privet and the pyracantha, the decorative limestone and calcite have all been replaced with soiled nappies, empty Skips packets, sundry broken pieces of board (mainly hard and chip) sodden underwear, empty milk cartons, a football boot, a stained mattress, empty paint tins, a broken toothbrush, a dustpan, a bent trampoline on its side, assorted lengths of polythene, a broken monster truck toy, party-popper shells, broken bottles, rusty pieces of micro-scooter, bits of an old gate, dog shit, traffic cones, energy drink cans, a kitchen unit with mould on it, a car with lichen on it, takeaway trays and a partially incinerated (artificial) Christmas tree.