Friday, 27 March 2015

On the estate where people in bath robes often shout loudly at barking dogs



On the estate where people in bath robes often shout loudly at barking dogs above the noise of high-energy auto-tuned pop, they were shouting particularly loudly today. The wind whistled through the streets, slamming knackered garden gates, flapping and cracking at the polythene in the broken trees, and inducing that weird clanging sound from the inside of metal street lamps.  A man of about sixty years old, in a tracksuit and an old Suzuki Swift pulled over to ask me whether I knew where he’d been born. I said I didn’t.
“Sorry… I mean… the thing is, my wife asked me where I was born the other day and I realised I don’t know. My mum’s dead, so I can’t ask her. I sent off for my birth certificate and it says Storths Road but I don’t know where that is."

Later on, I heard a woodpecker — in the tree above the owl that’s made of hundreds of tiny shells.

The elderly man in the stained anorak was sitting on an upturned bucket to paint his garden fence. He told me he used to work for the GPO, “…on the engineering side, like. I’ve got a good pension — it’s seen me right! I’ve been retired for twenty-eight years. I bet it’s not like that anymore though, is it? I couldn’t believe it when they privatised the Royal Mail — Nobody wanted it! It was all just to line the pockets of the big boys. Greedy buggers.”
He dipped his brush into the paint,
“It’s water based, this” he pointed out.
I commented on the unpredictable weather we’ve been having.
“Aye, but isn’t it grand working outside. I love it. I always have. I think it’s why I’m so fit… apart from me knees… and me back. I’ve always worked outside. It can be the worst job in the world but as long as you’re outside and you’ve got some good work-mates it doesn’t matter."
I agreed with him, and told him about my back and knee problems. He sympathised and then parked his brush. 
“I’m going to call it a do for today,” he said, groping for a dry bit of fence to pull himself upright. “I’ve enjoyed our chat. It makes the world go round, doesn’t it? Talking to folk? But there’re some right miseries around these days, aren’t there? My bus driver says he hates his job because everybody’s so miserable now.”

Three doors down, a tall man in a black anorak and sandals was looking directly ahead and holding his hands behind his back as he paced slowly round and round the perimeter of the small concreted-over garden of his terraced house.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Sunlight streams through gaps in the clouds, dramatically spotlighting both the Arqiva Tower and Mr Hussain’s plastic lawn.



Sunlight streams through gaps in the clouds, dramatically spotlighting both the Emley Moor mast and Mr Hussain’s plastic lawn. The past few weeks have seen Mr Hussain’s fake lawn divided into a series of rectangular strips by the long mohicans of real lawn that have breached its seams.

Next door, a big gold two-litre Mercedes is blocking the pavement. I walk around it while the jackdaws squabble noisily on a chimney pot overhead. There are four stone urns in a neat row below the big picture window. Three of them house a corresponding stone sphere, the fourth contains a weathered, regulation size Mitre football.

Further up the valley, the houses on this estate haven’t changed much since they were built in the early 1970s; a series of brick semis with postage-stamp lawns bordered with daffs and primulas. The cul-de-sac is lined all the way to the turning circle with regularly spaced identical ‘feature’ bay windows, glazed with stick-on leaded lights. The wooden, approximately Doric architraves are rotting now and several have been replaced with moulded UPVC—as have many of the windows and doors—but all the brass reproduction Victorian stage-coach lamps have been retained. There’s evidence of the original concrete road surface through scars in the asphalt too. 
Audi, Audi, Ford Mondeo, Mercedes, Kia, Land Rover and, on the five-bar gated driveway at the bottom, underneath the leylandii that has been precision topiaried to accommodate it, a pristine, twelve year old Rover 75 Tourer in metallic red.

There’s nobody on the streets around here except for old women at bus stops and the occasional commercial dog walker. A Toyota Yaris goes past leaving a trail of weed smoke in its wake.

Friday, 13 March 2015

A shoal of jackdaws swell overhead...



A shoal of jackdaws swells overhead as the line of geese that are scouring the field off Hall Lane edge forward in unison like policemen in overalls conducting a fingertip search.

Ten years ago, the pair of plastic ornamental bay trees either side of the door were quite an authentic ‘bay’ green but now they have faded and bleached to a kind of washed-out ‘toothpaste' turquoise. In the garden, Mr Walker is making the most of the mild weather and is carrying out some maintenance. He has balanced the frost-severed head of the stone tortoise on top of a statuette of a baby rabbit. The head has thereby been raised to a height and angle that has allowed Mr Walker to realign it with its headless body and create the illusion that the tortoise is still whole. I can hardly see the join, and the result is a touching tableau in which the tortoise appears to be glancing over the baby rabbit’s back to keep an experienced eye out for predators.

The temperature is into double figures, shag pile moss covers the top-stones, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the man in the heavy duffle coat with the hood up wants to know what the hell it is I think I’m doing.

“Come in! Come in!” shouts the old man at the manor house on the moor as I approach the door, “I hear you’ve grown a beard!” he says, mistaking me for somebody else.

Anyway, a woman in a little hat with netty bits on has just waved to me from a passing Rolls Royce.