Tuesday, 15 November 2016

5.40 am: It’s raining steadily and the reflection of the the traffic lights in the road surface reaches a full hundred yards to my feet



5.40 a.m.: It’s raining steadily and the reflection of the traffic lights in the road surface reaches the full hundred yards to my feet. Mostly all I can hear is the rustle of waterproofs, the rain on my hood and the burble of the run-off channel in the gutter. Occasionally a car tears past in a belligerent hiss of spray.

Later, on the estate of 60s-built semis, the solar panels on the new lampposts are covered with an inch-and-a-half of settled snow and the starlings are whistling in the tops of the yellow trees. The roofer says he’s going to finish work early so he can go and buy his girlfriend a watch for a hundred pounds and the woman in the leggings and military parka says her fox terrier is much better in hisself, thank you.

Leonard Cohen has died and the junction box by the flats has started humming loudly. 

The sun comes out lighting up the green baize pavements and I knock off my hat on an inconspicuous washing line for the second time. Rows of plastic clothes pegs in faded primaries highlight the next three low-slung lines and I avoid these by bowing gracefully like Kate Middleton in the 1902 State Landau. 

At the entrance to the flats, two men in their fifties are engaged in a loud debate about Lorne sausage. ‘It shouldn’t be called sausage at all because it's square and sausages are round. It’s more like a square burger’ insists the one with the bit of arse crack showing. The one without the bit of arse crack showing counters, ‘If it’s sausage meat, it’s sausage. End. Of.’ 

Donald Trump is president-elect of the U.S.A.

On the estate where the old ladies in purple anoraks still call me ‘Love’, the air is thick with the fug of Stardrops, stewing steak and cheap tobacco. They gather to inspect the last sweet pea flowers of the year.

I pass the boy who once tried to sell me a pebble for a pound. He’s too old for that stuff now. 

I call in at the newsagent’s for some crisps but the shelves are completely bare apart from a few tabloid newspapers. The proprietor sits behind the till wearing a scarf and hat.

A taxi pulls up outside the house whose steps are littered with sodden Capri Sun cartons, nail polish bottles, chocolate coins, smashed crockery, a baby monitor, sherbet straws, empty portion control packs of tomato ketchup, a pair of nail scissors, and a bent and twisted purple glittery stars-on-a-spring ornament—like a deely-bopper for your windowsill. The taxi driver blows his horn to notify the occupants of his arrival but the driver of an oncoming Fiesta thinks it’s directed at him and gestures aggressively, contorting his face in unadulterated rage.

Big fat flies gather on white UPVC to garner the last vestige of residual heat.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

There’s a chill in the air. There are starlings.



There’s a chill in the air. There are starlings. There is standing traffic because a bus has got stuck. The driver is wearing sunglasses and waving his arms at a woman in a Fiesta—who is also stuck. There’s a navy blue sock in the gutter.

I walk past the dog-eared Vote Remain posters in the window of the railway bookshop and take the desire line across the verge. The yellow carpet of fallen leaves under the now thin canopy of the cherry tree is accented with black: seven empty White Star cider cans and a plastic bag of dog shit. 

I cross the road. The clothing bank is propped up on bricks, there’s a new chipboard fence and the kerbstones have been messily daubed with white paint: No Parking Please. 

Schoolgirls are stealing schoolboys’ hats for fun and the man who jogs in his suit trousers overtakes me in the road, his grey shirt completely buttoned—including the cuffs.

I slalom around on wheelie bin pavements. At number fifty-six, the bin has a brass effect '5' and '6' bolted to it, next door the ’58’ has been applied with lackadaisical Tippex and outside No.60 there’s no wheelie bin at all, just a small five litre brushed steel pedal bin with no number.

A single rubberised red-brown glove with off-white cuffing lies in the gutter. This is by far the most commonly discarded style of glove in the Huddersfield area*. I once saw one fall from the back of a builder's truck as it rounded a corner which perhaps explains the phenomenon.

Further up the hill, the soot-black terraces give way to pebble-dash inter-war semis with neatly trimmed privet. There’s a pile of interior doors in a ginnel and a big ball of hoover fluff on a lawn but no more White Star cans. 

A strong easterly breeze is blowing now and the leaves on the pavement are getting deep. There are parked cars on the right, ivy encroaching from the left and overhanging trees above.

Higher up again and the uniformity of another Victorian terrace is broken with a UPVC porch, a satellite TV dish, or a clump of Pampas grass. Opposite this, behind the collapsed dry stone wall there’s an area of literal edgeland: rough tussock grass, arthritic nettles, fireweed, brambles, a broken pallet, a graffiti-daubed electricity substation, the remains of a galvanised security palisade and a sheer millstone drop to the valley bottom.

* Huddersfield Glovewatch 2002