Friday 4 September 2015

A cyclist with squeaky brakes and a pair of crutches strapped to his back passed me as I walked into work.

A cyclist with squeaky brakes and a pair of crutches strapped to his back passes me as I walk into work. 

On the bus with some other men in high visibility clothing, the main topics of conversation are caravans, caravan based holidays, and the football transfer window. I alight at the nursing home and follow the woman on the mobility scooter past the ivy-covered lampposts, the pink hydrangeas, the smeared dog shit and the sandwich packaging. I turn off along the terrace with no front gardens; a long row of telly backs and cable knots. I turn off again to a stinking dog piss accreted yard of crisp packets, expanding foam, dandelions and empty milk cartons next door to an obsessive mini Versaille of hoverflies, succulents and fancy gravels. The clock tower strikes the hour and the running man with the dog jumps over the spilt grab bag of Maltesers; neat parallel rows of chocolate beads line up in the grate of the storm drain. Out from the tidy side street of bungalows, the ladies begin to flock with their hair set, their trouser suits pressed, their shoes gold and their shopping bags for life. They each round the corner into the main road and get a wet slap in the face from the big overhanging buddleia. I carry on past the sheltered houses with their gladioli in planters, beige washing lines and handwritten No Parking signs. On, past the back-to-backs where the dock leaves grow from the thick green snail-slime striated moss on the stone steps below the leaky guttering. Past the fairy lights and decking, the cooking sauce jars, squashed slugs and blackberries. On up to the new estate with the fake bricked-up windows, the concrete lintels and architraves, the pretend leaded lights, the miniature gardens (where the box shrubs have already overstepped their boundaries) and the herringbone paving in the communal parking bays: a small Honda, a large Honda, an Astra a Citroen C1... I cut across the sodden plastic lawn (laid directly over stone flags) to the big, gated Victorian, Atkinson Grimshaw mansions whose wide-as- a-street driveways are bordered with poplar, rhododendron, holly, begonia, topiary teddy bears, ferns and golden beech leaves on neatly trimmed lawns; the first fall of autumn. The only other person around is the happy old man with the walking frame.