The sun is out. Jackdaws peck at something in the road and an ambulance drifts by slowly as I follow the old woman with the done-up-to-the-top parka, pink floral leggings and four pack of Special Brew out of the newsagent’s. She almost loses her balance and has to steady herself on the bin for a few seconds.
As they walk into the early sun, both the man in the lumberjack shirt and the golden retriever he is walking, are haloed by its glare. The dog stops to piss on a holly bush and the resulting cloud of water vapour rises to combine with the mist of their breath, swirling around them until they almost disappear from view.
I disturb a small swarm of the first-flies-of-the-year, in the ivy by the house of the man who is wearing a football kit and no shoes.
Chemist shop interior
There is orange lichen on the ridge tiles and vivid green moss on the pavements. I side-step a young girl in wheelie-shoes and a grown-up’s sweat shirt — empty arms flapping.
There’s a man chopping timber in the woods with an axe: bobble hat and a pair of those reddy-brown rubberised gloves with the unbleached ribbing. And now the students are going past on the double-decker from the halls of residence that used to be the mental hospital where I was terrified by the patients while delivering harvest festival bounty on behalf of my primary school — I remember a marrow, some tins of sweetcorn and a skinny old woman with dribble down her chin who shouted and swore and pulled at my sleeve.
The geese make that noise they make. I can still hear them all the way down at the house with the windowsill of silk flowers in Costa coffee mugs.
There’s a woodpecker on the avenue of Victorian mansions. Plastic fascia boards creak in the sun. Crocuses. People can’t agree whether it’s warm or cold. The woman in the camel hair coat who's waiting for a taxi with three children says, “Ooh, in’t it warm” but just round the corner, the window cleaner with the woolly hat and the scarf wrapped around his face says, “By ‘eck, it’s cold”.
There’s a woman speaking Urdu very loudly on speaker-phone at the bus stop. The other half-dozen people in the queue are finding it amusing, catching one another’s eyes and laughing behind their hands.
Boiler flue vapour
I pass the house with the tiny cluttered garden: childrens’ ride-on toys in faded plastic, dogshit and a fallen over gravestone:
The roofer with the skinny jeans and Harrington jacket says he’s never had a cash card in his life, mate.
The house that was built on the field where I used to race my BMX has a poster in the window: SAY NO to greenfield development. SAVE OUR GREENBELT.