A gale sluices the first fallen leaves along the gutter and the man with the screwed up face who is jogging into the wind barely overtakes me. Brake lights cast the gates of the park red and a cyclist pulls over to adjust his gaiters.
In town, the rough sleeping couple have moved from their usual pitch in the doorway of the pawnbrokers to the more sheltered entrance of the strip club.
In the suburbs, a wood pigeon perches on top of the new LED street light and the tired chubby woman at the show home says ‘Hello’ with long, roadkill flat vowels, rising and falling in inflection either side of the ‘L’.
I say good morning to the man with the silver earrings, unzipped gilet, grey goatee and rat-tail but he doesn’t reply.
I struggle to read the dull screen of my PDA and the security man at the factory gates asks me whether it was made in China. “I’ve no idea” I say.
“Nothing they make works. They’re rubbish!”
I point out that most of the manufacturing at his factory has famously been transferred to China over the last ten years. He looks sheepish, thinks for a moment and then says “All I’m saying is I’ve got a 1963 Massey Ferguson tractor and It still goes like new and it’s British made.”
On the TV monitor in the pro-shop at the golf club, a muscular American man with American hair and American teeth is playing golf in the sunshine with palm trees behind him and a heavy rock guitar soundtrack. He looks up at the camera to say he can’t believe how comfortable his trousers are. Meanwhile, the door to the shop opens and a short fat bald man with a grey moustache rustles in wearing a waterproof jacket and ill-judged shorts. He takes off the jacket, hangs it over the telly and wipes the rain off his glasses with a handkerchief.
It’s 11.30am and the smell of stewing meat pervades the estate of retired 1970s Britain. The narrow paths are cluttered with architectural features in UPVC. There are gates to open every couple of yards and redundant miniature porches that I have to walk backwards out of because there’s no room to turn around. There are unnecessary steps leading to raised beds of marigolds, box topiary, begonia, and there are swathes of hard-standing devoted solely to the display of miniature plastic fauna.
Two men are talking in the street. One wears his Hawaiian shirt untucked with the top two buttons undone, the other has Brylcreem hair, heavy black plastic rimmed glasses, and a purple nylon shirt tucked in to grey polyester slacks. They are discussing their experiences of electrocardiography: “It makes your arm twitch, doesn’t it?”
Inside the house, a woman in a dinner-lady tabard sits watching Bargain Hunt with her right hand clasped idly around the handle of a vacuum cleaner.
Swallows gather eagerly on phone lines.