6:30 a.m. Light drizzle: The man in the pink T-shirt and distressed denim jeans blows his nose noisily while the jogger who is circumnavigating the pond in the park scatters frightened ducklings from their roost under the overhang of the edging stones.
Mr Bateman has a new No.9 on his front door. Unusually, he has decided not to remove the old brass one and has opted instead to fasten a new, slightly smaller (brass effect) plastic one directly over the top of it. From a distance the resulting collage is completely illegible.
The individual barcode stickers on each of the stone setts laid at the barn conversion a couple of years ago have finally worn away leaving dark rectangular stains where they once were.
The concierge with the Polyveldt shoes and black polo shirt says he hasn’t had a pay rise in nine years. “I’m going to jack it in and have a couple of months in Goa” he says.
“Champion!” exclaims the man in the grey flannels and Oxford shirt from deep inside his rose garden.
I round a corner into the back alley of the terrace. Two tanned men are kissing on a doorstep. On seeing me, the older of them says, “I’m his grandad, by the way” and the younger man—gold earrings and dressing gown—doubles over, laughing. “We’re not that way inclined,” reiterates the older man, irritated, “and if you are, then I sympathise!”
A few doors down, an angry woman in a sari brandishes a yard brush at her neighbour:
“Keep your fucking children under fucking control!” she screams, “Fucking leave me a-fucking-lone!”
A black cat wearing a cobweb cowl watches on from behind the wheelie bins.
The weeds between the flags on the narrow pavements are knee high in some of the back streets—mainly long grasses and ragwort. I graze my knuckles on a concrete lamp post as I squeeze past the man with the slicked back nicotine hair on a narrow pavement. He falls backwards into a hedge but rebounds upright again to continue on his way.
The man who wears the all-year-round head-to-toe waterproofs comes out of the bottom of Grasmere Road, turns left towards the park, then turns round and runs back again. It’s the first time I’ve seen him since March 23rd 2012.
Later, at the shattered old farm on the moor, the middle-aged Flora Poste who has moved in at one of the cottages is tending her hanging baskets. Since she arrived a few months ago the decrepit doors and aching window frames have been painted a fashionable eau de nil and there are crushed cloves in the yard. Her influence has yet to reach the main house though where there is still dog sick on the doorstep and a badly written note in the porch window: Leave parcels In the WOODSHED.