Wednesday 19 August 2015

6am: it’s quiet in the street apart from the man in the black track-suit who is singing

6 a.m.: it’s quiet on the street apart from the man in the black tracksuit who is singing an indefinable song quite loudly outside Ali Barber’s barber shop.

10 a.m.: In town, the old woman in the open-toed sandals is waiting to cross the road outside the supermarket with her Inca inspired bag-for-life. Next to her is a younger man in a pink shirt and a red, yellow, green and black striped Rasta cap. They cross the road together and make their way around the pile of rubble that was, until last week, the old university sports hall. They pass a soberly dressed man at the bus stop—shiny black shoes, grey suit trousers, pale pink shirt—who is drinking a can of extra strength lager.

11.30 a.m.: In the suburbs, the tarmac is melting. The sun is out, the hydrangeas are out, the big men in shorts and flip-flops are out. A swarm of bees has taken up residence in a crack in the wall of the contract weaver’s shed and the man in the leather gauntlets says “All right, mate?” to me outside the shop that sells mainly tinned peas, jars of tuna paste, and extra-strength cider. My old school teacher has moved house and the new owner has paved over the garden and replaced the big old gloss black hardwood door and leaded lights with white UPVC. There has also been a proliferation of CND graffiti around here recently.

12.30 p.m.: The knackered old boat that I sometimes park up behind for cover while I have a quick brew, is gone. I ask the man who is pouring some concrete where it is. He says I've just missed it, ”Some blokes have been to tow it away.” Around the corner, I see it, stationary and listing badly in the middle of the road, one of the wheels has fallen off its trailer.

3 p.m.: At the shop, the man in front of me in the queue asks for an e-cigarette charger. The proprietor ducks behind the counter, rummages around and comes back up with a USB phone charger.
“No’ says the man, “It’s for my e-cigarettes.”
The proprietor disappears into a storeroom and returns with a large plastic box. He sits it on the counter and pulls out three or four different USB phone chargers.
“No” says the man, “It’s for my e-cigarettes; you know, a three pin plug for the mains with a bit that you screw onto the cigarette at the other end.”
The proprietor rummages through the box again and pulls out another USB phone charger.
“I tell you what,” says the man, “Give me twenty Chesterfield Lights.”
The proprietor rolls up the shutter to the tobacco cabinet, takes out a packet of twenty JPS and puts them on the counter with all the phone cables.
“No” says the man, “20 Chesterfield Lights. There, bottom left.”
The proprietor replaces the packet of JPS and returns with a packet of JPS Blue.
“No” says the man, “I tell you what, Give me 20 Rothmans Superkings, right in the middle there.”
The proprietor replaces the JPS Blue, takes out the Rothmans and hands them over.
“Thank you,” says the man.

Sunday 2 August 2015

The black liner of the wire litter bin outside the Costcutter had blown inside-out...

The black liner of the wire litter bin outside the Costcutter had blown inside-out in the wind and was flapping about inflated like a smaller, less cocksure, banana and ketchup-stained version of the promotional ‘air-dancers’ they used to have outside the Fiat garage when it was a Peugeot one.
A delivery van pulled up and the driver got out. While he was unloading fruit and veg’ he explained how he’d earlier mistaken his own reflection in his misaligned nearside wing mirror for another person and, in the resulting confusion had almost hit a wall.
The KIA saloon with the office chair and the postcard display rack strapped to its roof drove past—just as it had the day-before-yesterday.

When the old man who was cleaning his immaculate 12-year-old Ford Mondeo initially engaged me in conversation I’d assumed he was just being friendly to a stranger, but when he asked me a technical question about the tactics employed by the Huddersfield Giants in their last game, I wondered whether he had mistaken me for somebody else. Not being much of a fan of rugby league, I confessed I had no idea what he was talking about. At first, the man looked confused but then he smiled, got up from where he’d been crouching to polish the chrome of his vintage AA radiator grill badge, and persisted with the subject—presumably assuming I was just amusing myself by teasing him. I reasserted my ignorance on the matter and voiced my suspicion that I wasn’t who he thought I was. Once more, the man briefly looked confused, nervously wrapping his duster around his hand, but again he smiled and continued on the subject. As he seemed so convinced I was somebody I wasn’t, I began to doubt myself; perhaps we had met before and I’d forgotten. Maybe he’d brought up the Huddersfield Giants in conversation on that occasion too and I’d somehow given him the impression that I had some interest and knowledge on the subject—It could easily happen during the course of small talk in a queue or on a bus. I decided to go with this scenario and explained that while I do like to keep an eye on the Giants’ results (an outright lie) I don’t consider myself to be much of an expert and have no worthwhile opinion on their tactics. At this, the man smiled, raised his hands to his eyes like blinkers and said conspiratorially, “I know! It’s all claret and gold with some people, isn’t it?”
At this point, we were interrupted by the two builders who were sitting side-by-side on some scaffolding while they chiselled render from the house next door. They had begun singing R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly at the tops of their voices. The old man looked up and shouted over, “Give it a rest now lads!” but it had no effect.
Further down the road I got talking to the woman with the low maintenance hairstyle and the perhaps inadvisable vest-top-with-no-bra. She was telling me about the house she used to live in when she was younger. 
“Where was that?” I asked. 
She waved an enormous arm in the vague direction of half of Huddersfield and said, “You know, number twenty-three do-dah.”

On, and up past the quarry, the airfield, the firework factory and the caravan park to the cul-de-sac of neat 1960s bungalows where the sound of Woman’s Hour was leaking from open kitchen windows and the air smelled of freshly cut leylandii. There was talk of chimineas: “Good grief, how many of these are we having?”

Round the corner at the doctors’ surgery, which was empty apart from an elderly woman and an elderly man who were staring impassively at different walls at either end of the waiting room while Lessons in Love by Level 42 played through the discreetly mounted speakers at quite a high volume.