Tuesday 26 December 2017

Highlights: 2017

*Audio: Beeves

Highlights: 2017

Listening to speaker-phone hip-hop
Fly-tipping your wheelie bin
Playing kerby between two derelict fridges
Driving your Skoda Fabia at high speed while wearing a polyester parka
Trying to look nonchalant while your dog pisses on next door’s gatepost
Playing with your knob in Sports Direct
Eating Pot Noodle in a Portakabin
Kicking the green hamster of sphagnum down the wooden steps
Discussing who will look after the technical side when Geoff’s gone
The dead twigs in plastic pots and the fake bells of All Saints
Mending a caravan and shouting for Susan
Improving Yorkshire’s sewers
Discussing a mutual neighbour: “That twat over the road”
Pushing a baby in a pushchair past some discarded bathroom scales
Snowflakes settling on your luxuriant mahogany perm
Wearing matching purple anoraks
Goldfinches squabbling in polythene trees
Unfashionable bell-bottom jeans in indigo
Galahad Premium Lager and bags of green potatoes
Eating peanuts while the man with the Father Christmas bag-for-life hugs a spaniel
Walking your Akita past the temperance fountain
Threatening to jump from a railway bridge
Gathering around the modular seating at the Hyundai showroom
Decorating your Smart car with an Iron Cross motif and the word ‘Luftwaffe’ in an elaborate jackboot font
Cutting out the word ‘J-Dog’ from some silver foil and displaying it in the window of the cab of your truck
Smashing the windows of a VW Golf and dragging out the driver
Sitting on a bench with analeptic leg shakes and an eagle print t-shirt, smoking weed
Couch grass paving flags and fake lawns in acid green
Wearing Crocs to chamois your Skoda Yeti
A brace of German saloons and a statue of the Buddha
Making use of the pejorative overtones of the word ‘titivate’ while discussing your neighbour’s new outdoor LED display
Walking down Newsome Road with your head in your hands
Arguing about which of you understands dogs the most
jumping from a four foot high garden wall using a Morrison’s bag as a parachute
Leaning on the bins and drinking strong cider
Seeing if you’ve got a bag of Cheetos in the third drawer down
Installing a lurid 3D picture of a blond haired Christ adjacent to the front door of the vicarage
Wearing superman pyjamas to withdraw a tenner
Accidentally going to Whitby during the Goth weekender
Having a bloody funeral to go to

Wednesday 20 December 2017

5.30a.m.: It’s cold. I don’t go through the park because it’s too icy and too dark in there

5.30a.m.: It’s cold. I don’t go through the park because it’s too icy and too dark in there. Instead, I duck under the overhanging holly at the entrance and walk around. I edge along glistening pavements, past frozen crisp packets, polystyrene cups, shimmering vomit, sticking close to the railings so I can grab them when I slip.

An old man who smells of weed stops me in the street to wish me a happy Christmas. He puts his hand on my shoulder and hums a short tune. “What’s that then?” I ask. “Music” he says, and he wanders off over the road.

At the house with the broken satellite dish and an empty Foster’s can in the garden, the front door has been graffitied with a marker pen: inside a wonky love heart it says, “I miss you Mum”.

Two young men in grey tracksuits and snapback baseball caps walk past drinking lager and listening to loud auto-tuned pop on mobile speakers with no bottom end.

Outside the Polish Corner restaurant in town, a chubby man in a tracksuit is pretending to buff-up his bald head while he takes a selfie. His friends can barely contain their mirth.

The woman on the bus recommends the Wills O’ Nats pub, “The staff really look after you”, she says. “Really nice food, really nice atmosphere. It was just nice to get home afterwards”.

At the shop.
Man at self-service checkout: This isn’t working, love. Must be manned by a woman.
Female shop assistant: You’ve put your card in upside down.

Saturday 11 November 2017

As I exit the park gates, I hear a loud crunch

As I exit the park gates, I hear a loud crunch. I look up to see a green fluorescent cyclist bounce off the side of an Octavia taxi and onto the road. He gets to his feet quickly and holds out his hands in a ‘What the fuck?’ gesture to driver behind the wheel. “I’ve got a light,” he shouts, switching the light on his helmet off and on again, “I’ve got a fluorescent jacket,” he says, tugging at the collar of his hi-vis, “How come you didn’t see me?” The taxi driver doesn’t respond.

I follow the two Polish men in anoraks and combat pants down Fitzwilliam Street. The shorter of them is swigging Polish lager as they walk. When they reach the bottom of the hill, he throws his can into the bin and they stand conversing loudly for a minute or so before heading off in opposite directions.

The short tubby man in his late fifties with the raglan cardigan and combover tells me he accidentally went to Whitby during the goth weekender. “By ‘eck, we saw some right sights!” he explains, shaking his head. “They were selling steam punk starter kits for twenty quid: a pair of goggles and a hat with a feather in it. I have to admit I was tempted, but I didn’t bother in the end.”

A five-bar gate has been installed on new wooden posts a couple of meters back from the original stone ones. I open it and make my way up the dirt road past the old stone buildings whose roofs are bright green with moss.

A jay flies out from Southernwood.

The man in the red North Face jacket flicks the bottom of his crisp bag with his middle finger before tipping his head back and upending the dregs into his open mouth.

The tall poplars behind the new estate are capped yellow with the last of the leaves that still cling to the very top of the canopy. There are pink, lace-up Hunter wellingtons, Union Jack themed soft furnishings and a man in a gilet in his late fifties. “There’s always something to do,”  he tells me. “Last weekend I had to unblock the drain and this weekend, I had to build a shed. There’s always summat to do, in’t there? There’s always summit.”

Mr Briggs pulls up in his Suzuki Carry: “If you don’t see me tomorrow, hang on to my mail, will you? I’ve got a bloody funeral to go to.” And with that, he spins his wheels on the wet leaves in the gutter and speeds away towards Meltham — where it’s a right bugger to park, so he often tells me.

The bald man behind me on the bus says he doesn’t get why everyone is still bothered about iPhones: “I could understand it when they first came out and you could get an app that made a whipping sound or a noise like a fart; it was fun, but where do you go from there? I mean, what’s the point now?”

Friday 13 October 2017

6 a.m.: It’s been a windy night.

6 a.m.: It’s been a windy night. There are leaves swirling around the fallen apples on the pavement. In the park, two young men are unable to resist the child’s scooter which has been abandoned against a litter bin. After a couple of failed attempts at bunny-hops, they lose interest and prop it back where they'd found it. They are in conversation as they walk up the path towards me. “The thing is, right, she’s said a few things recently that have made me feel a bit, hmm.” “What? Like it’s kind of getting a bit more serious than you’d like?”

I follow the man in head-to-toe hi-vis who is smoking strong weed. He’s walking slower than I am and, as I catch him up, he emits a loud belch. When I overtake him and he realises that I’d have been within earshot, he clears his throat several times perhaps thinking I’d assume that what I’d taken to be a noisy eructation was just another attempt at clearing his passages.

the five-year-old plastic lawn at number twelve is really starting to fade now. It has bleached to quite a pale green and is now far more realistic than when it was installed.

The woman in the trouser suit whose long blonde hair is tied back in a black scrunchie is on the phone: “Hiya, can you do us a favour? Can you see if I’ve got a bag of Cheetos in the third drawer down?"

On the new estate, three boys are playing football in the road. A girl asks if she can join in, “Yes,” says the boy in the Chelsea kit, “You can pretend you’re watching us on the TV.”

The vicar has installed a lurid 3D picture of a blond haired Christ adjacent to the front door of the vicarage.

It’s a bit rough around here; the landlords have attached advertisements for boarding-up services to the front windows and, at the cash machine outside the post office, an elderly woman wearing Superman pyjamas is withdrawing a tenner.

In town, it’s gloomy, wet and windy. I move aside for the three drunks and their free-range bow-legged Staffy. They gob on the floor and ostentatiously impart their observations on life. "She wa' a right big lass for a girl." 

Robbie Williams spews out over ‘The Piazza’ on the rubbish PA system: "I got too much life running through my veins” he sings with no bottom-end to all the old women as they hobble past Poundworld with their bags-for-life and their hoods up against the pissing horizontal rain.

Saturday 26 August 2017

Leaves are stuck fast to the roofs of cars with condensation

Leaves are stuck fast with condensation to the roofs of cars. More leaves and a couple of energy drink cans line the gutter. I can hear a police siren, the noise of a train going through the cutting, a jangle of keys as a man unlocks the community centre and the wood pigeons calling from the beech on the edge of the wood. There are some more old mattresses in the front garden of the flats and a burst bin bag outside A-Z Tyres where the fuchsia had dropped its flowers in a neat purple stripe. In the park, a flock of gulls swoops low over the narrow gauge railway and the Canada geese by the pond stare at me as I walk past.

In town, the tail-lifts creak, the pallet trucks squeak and the drunks in the church gardens argue about which of them understands dogs the most. Above them, a fourth-floor window opens and two men lean out. One of them launches a paper dart made from a pizza menu. “What the fuck was that?” the other exclaims as it spiral dives straight down and crashes onto the pavement below.

Later, on the estate, a learner driver cautiously passes the boy of about eight who jumps from a four-foot high garden wall using a Morrison’s bag as a parachute and then rolls histrionically across the pavement.

I pass two untidy looking men with several missing teeth. They are leaning on the bins and drinking strong cider. “You look nothing like Postman Pat!” one of them shouts to me in a slightly camp accent.
“Do you not like my look?” I ask, "This high-vis is brand new.”
“It’s not so bad, you just don’t look like Postman Pat, that’s all," the man says before his attention is drawn to the tall woman in her seventies with the full-length woollen overcoat who has just come round the corner and is trying to avoid eye contact. “I love your coat!” he shouts after her. 
“Thanks, love,” says the woman, blushing slightly.

Thursday 10 August 2017

The Most Difficult Thing Ever at the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography

  • The Most Difficult Thing Ever will feature in the programme of the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography at Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, September 8th-10th 2017.

    "The 4th World Congress of Psychogeography in 2017 brings together people from all walks of life to to Huddersfield this Autumn. With a mix of walks and talks come and find out what it’s all about and take the opportunity to explore new ways of seeing the world around you. Some of the walks are also part of Heritage Open Days in Huddersfield. 
    Please note that some details may change, please check these listing nearer to the time to double check the running order. Any under 16s must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Please dress appropriately for the weather if you are taking part in an outdoor activity. Some events may require booking, but all are free." 

    MUSIC / TALK / FILM:  The Most Difficult Thing Ever 
    Saturday 9th September, 18.00,  Auditorium 
    By: Kevin Boniface, Beeves, & ML-B 
    Artists/musicians Beeves, ML-B, and Kevin Boniface will help you to make a bit less sense of Huddersfield through its frost damaged backyard buddhas, its bag-for-lifes, its salmon and potato dog food, its polythene trees, its Susans and its Geoffs, its Pot Noodle Portakabins, its mid-winter flip-flops, its couch grass window-boxes, its gin and slim on noughties decking, its talk of chimineas and quad bikes, its heated discussions about lorne sausage, its swanee-whistling starlings and its ketchup stained promotional air-dancers. 
    A Huddersfield experience realised in film, soundscape, music, and talking out loud.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Walking into work at 6 a.m., I am overtaken by a man on an old mountain bike.

Walking into work at 6 a.m., I am overtaken by a man on an old mountain bike, a Labrador on a lead trotting alongside him. 20 yards ahead of me on the pavement is the spectral flâneur who I’ve occasionally glimpsed sight of over many years as he conducts his early morning dérives around town. He is easily recognised by his head-to-toe navy blue waterproofs and tightly drawn hood—whatever the weather. Over time I have convinced myself of this man's supernatural powers of perception and am consequently intimidated by his presence in the same street as me. 
Eventually, the mountain biker and Labrador catch up with and pass the mysterious flâneur which appears to prompt him to take flight; he suddenly leaps from the pavement, sprints across the road and disappears into a side street for another few months.

I have a badly addressed parcel to deliver: no street number, just a name. I ask the camp eastern European man with the tattoos who lives at the house with the waist height grass meadow in the front yard whether he recognises it. He says he doesn't which seems to frustrate him. I can tell he really wants to help and, after thinking for a moment he says, "The only advice I can give you is to drive really slowly along the road looking in all the windows at the curtains and things.”

It’s windy. I can hear plastic bottles blowing down the street. I see one bounce past the little junction box whose inspection door has been secured shut with brown packing tape.

Balls of plastic topiary hang from chains by front doors on the new estate. There are low maintenance bits of lawn, bits of privet, bits of cotoneaster etc. On a window sill, a pair of metallic effect picture frames display identical pieces of white paper printed with the words 4x4 Metallic Effect Frame.

At the house that smells of dog piss, there are signs on the gate that say Beware of Dogs. Next door, at the house where a recording of an Islamic call to prayer is audible from an upstairs window, there is a handwritten note in pencil attached to the door frame above the bell. It says “What are YOU saying?”

The sun comes out briefly and the broken glass glistens on the pavements. A scattering of takeaway detritus blows in a circle outside the post office where the couple with the bags-for-life are having an argument at the bus stop.

Inside the newsagent’s shop with the faded sign, a big man on crutches is talking to the thin woman in the torn gilet behind the counter. He is dressed in black with his hood up. He says Dr Who has had too many assistants over the years. “It started with his granddaughter and she was around for a while and then a new one came in and she’d be gone before you knew it and then there’d be another female on.” he explains, “There have been that many assistants it’s hard to keep up sometimes.”

On the estate of sweet peas and sticky grass, the 4x4 is loaded up and the kids are strapped in for the holiday drive. Parents scurry back and forth, “Have you got your fidget spinners?”

“Well, she’s putting enough weight on for twins,” says the waitress at the pub as she walks past the bar with plates of screwed up serviettes and ketchup stacked the length of her forearm. The barman glances up from his phone with a wry smile.

I pass The Bathstore on the ring road and I find myself thinking about the olive green plastic bath panel that was on sale for years at a rural post office from where I used to collect the mail. Other than post office essentials: stamps, envelopes, pens, there was nothing else for sale but this olive green bath panel. It was hung from baling twine above the cashier’s head and had a price tag of £18 attached to it. The office is long gone and presumably, the bath panel will have gone with it.

Sunday 9 July 2017

Out in the sticks a tiny vole dives for cover in the wall of the converted barn, maniacal starlings yell incoherently from the guttering...

Out in the sticks a tiny vole dives for cover in the wall of the converted barn, maniacal starlings yell incoherently from the guttering, and the builders’ site radio blasts I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats around the new estate. It is, of course, Monday and it’s very warm.

A large moth is caught mid flight by a pied wagtail who smashes it against the asphalt of the Rooneys’ driveway. The moth escapes briefly but is chased down again, stamped on and repeatedly pecked at. Again it limps free, half flying and half bouncing across the Rooneys’ lawn. The wagtail moves in a third time and the moth is finally dispatched. It’s a big meal and the bird struggles to swallow it before flittering off somewhere amongst the Rooneys’ statues of racoons pushing wheelbarrows and playing guitars.

Mr Barrow has moved from the big house to one of the cottages a few doors down. The delivery man asks the woman in the bucket hat who is bent over weeding the verge of the pretty lane, “Has Mr Barrow moved to this one?”
“Yes,” says the woman.
“I wasn’t sure.”
“It’s definitely that one,” says the woman waving her trowel at the Range Rover on the drive, “I was over there this morning and I saw his vegetables.”

A Bullfinch circles my head, I duck and the woman with the thick plastic rimmed glasses in the big picture window laughs at me over the top of her computer monitor.

In the village, the old woman in the taupe anorak outside the doctor's surgery isn't riding a vintage Raleigh Chopper incredibly slowly along the pavement, she's pushing one of those walking frames with wheels on. The people on the bench had obscured my view.

An idling diesel engine.
The amplified telephone bell from the office of the cardboard box factory.
Distant power tools.
Crows, starlings and sparrows.
Distant traffic from the main road.
The Labrador’s bark echoing around the new builds.
A distant police siren.
The reversing alarm of a wagon in the yard of the cardboard box factory.
An aeroplane rumbling overhead.
The bleating of sheep and lambs.
The sound of flowing water draining under the manhole cover.

Addy’s Picnic Hamper van signals its arrival at the cardboard box factory gates with loud Greensleeves chimes. A forklift driver abandons his truck and runs across the yard to be the first in the queue. Seconds later there’s a squeaking of doors and about a dozen men in overalls file out reaching into pockets and sorting change.

I knock at the door of the old manor house.
“Come in ladies!” says a voice from inside.
I open the door a crack and shout, “It’s the postman!”
“Come on in girls!” says the voice again
“It’s the postman!” I shout again.
“Ooo, soup for lunch, how lovely!” says the voice.
“It’s the postman,” I say walking in with the mail.
“Oh look, it’s the postman,” says the smart old man in the damask armchair.

At the house on the ridge of the valley side, the man with the wire rimmed glasses, grey sweatshirt, and jeans is making use of the pejorative overtones of the word ‘titivate’ as he describes his neighbour’s new L.E.D outdoor lighting display.

Back in town, the thin woman with one leg of her grey tracksuit tucked into a turquoise sock asks whether I’m a postman. I say I am.
“I love postmen”, she says.
“That’s great”. I say
“Yeah, they always take my letters to Portugal,” she explains.
A thin man in filthy baggy jeans and enormous dirty white trainers walks down Newsome Road with his head in his hands. He must be able to see through a crack in his fingers because he keeps going like this for about fifty yards.

At the post office, an elderly woman is holding up the queue while she explains to the cashier at length her frustration at having been held up in the queue.

Saturday 24 June 2017

It’s raining, a strong breeze is swinging the phone cables and occasional gusts blow litter past me in the road.

It’s raining, a strong breeze is swinging the phone cables and occasional gusts blow litter past me in the road. I walk up the hill behind the man with the Viking hair and beard who is wearing pyjamas and slippers.

In the park, the big man in his twenties with analeptic leg shakes and an eagle print T-shirt is sitting on a bench smoking weed. He’s listening to some reggae influenced pop music on speaker-phone and his attempts to sing along elicit only occasional growls and shouts of elongated hybrid vowels.

Outside the care home the couch grass between the flags of the pavement has dried yellow since the council treated it at the beginning of the week. in the car park, staff in waterproofs sit on the kerb smoking cigarettes and drinking mugs of tea

I pass the garden where hundreds of small succulents are displayed. They are housed in dozens of planters which have been made from pieces of silver birch and attached to the rails of the perimeter fence with expanding foam. The big forty-odd year old man with the homemade face tattoo appears on a small child's bike. I wonder whether he's trying to intimidate me when he starts pulling shit wheelies in the road and grunting like a wild animal. He has a big gold chain around his neck and most of his arse crack is showing

Starlings squawk from the guttering

Later, on the semi-detached suburban estate where people wear Crocs to chamois their Skoda Yetis, the plastic topiary has bleached in the sun leaving it a psychedelic turquoise against the acid green of the fake lawns.

On the edge of the estate, the new owners of the farm house have replaced the broken Land Rover Defender and the piles of cow shit on the drive with a brace of high performance German saloons and a statue of the Buddha.
Windowsill survey:
A scented candle
A small porcelain model of a flower barrow
A porcelain goose and gosling
A ceramic lighthouse
A hedgehog ornament made from a pine cone
A basket of colourful silk roses
A small clay model of a terrace of houses
An ornamental statuette of a couple kissing, their intertwined bodies making the shape of a love heart.
A scented candle inside a small bird cage
A piece of MDF painted white with the word ‘Love’ cut out of it.
A vase of daffodils
A dead pelargonium
An empty jam jar
Two silk gerberas in a milk bottle
Two Christmas cacti
Two brass effect resin rabbit ornaments
An ornamental tea pot and kettle
More silk gerberas
A kind of imitation Fabergé egg on a gold effect stand
A white porcelain dolphin
A pair of ornamental statuettes of topless women holding tea lights
A glass vase filled with colourful glass beads and two silk gerbera

A book leant against the window displaying the cover: We May Not Have It All Together But Together We Have It All.
A boxer dog (a real one)

Sunday 21 May 2017


“Oh, I didn’t know he’d ordered a jockey wheel,” said the big bleached haired woman in the red shorts. ”DEAN, YOUR JOCKEY WHEEL’S ARRIVED!”

There’s a long cerise pink hairpiece on the stone steps up to Pip Hill from Albert Street.

At the house with the laughing terracotta Buddha on the broken patio, there’s a plastic Christmas wreath and a dozy looking vine weevil on the front door. The plants in the pots are all dead and two women in their twenties are sitting on the doorstep in their pyjamas, smoking. A black Mercedes Smart car is parked on the drive, its boot decorated with a big iron cross motif with Luftwaffe written underneath it in a gothic font.

It’s mild and overcast and the pervading smell is of liver and onions. At the house with the grinning miniature Easter Island heads I say hello to the man who is posting flyers for the local curry house into the letterbox that says No Junk Mail on it. He doesn’t reply. 

Next door, a three-foot pile of rubbish has accumulated in the garden and there are now fourteen sycamore saplings growing from between the joints in the cracked concrete paving flags. On the drive, the old Vauxhall Vectra has six nodding bulldog statues wearing cross of St George T-shirts arranged across its parcel shelf. 

The bin men ignore the bright yellow toilet with the wooden lid that’s been left out with the wheelie bin.

The thin man who is driving the car transporter for the insurance company likes to be known as J-Dog according to the shiny cut-out tin foil writing in the window of his cab.

The man in the pastel coloured shirt at the Co-op is buying himself a Costa coffee. “I only need five hours sleep a night,” he says to the woman behind the counter, “If I don’t get it though, I’m as sick as a dog!”
“I’m the same!” says the woman. “I just know when I’m overtired and I just have to go to bed.”
“So you should,” says the man, “Nothing wrong with that! You’re like me”.

There’s a thrush singing in the top of a leylandii. 

A big fat forty-odd-year-old man with a homemade face tattoo pulls up on a child's glittery pink push bike with a flat tyre and asks me, "Have you fucking been up fucking New Laithe with a fucking parcel?” 

Five minutes later, an old Ford Focus skids around the corner. Three of the doors open before it even stops and half-a-dozen big men jump out, smash the front windows of the VW Golf parked at the side of the road and drag out the driver.

Friday 14 April 2017

6am, overcast, light rain.

6am, overcast, light rain.

In the park, the man smoking strong weed is walking his Akita past the temperance fountain. There are the joggers, ornamental lampposts, the shut up ice-cream pergola, the Boer war soldier, and down the steep hill, there's the modern day discount Sisyphus struggling with his 10kg bag of potatoes; every day I pass him here.

Further down, another young man is threatening to jump from the railway bridge on Church Street. The police are turning back the traffic and a woman is shouting.

Lunchtime now, and the jackdaws are pecking at the horse shit in Wakefield Road while a group of old men gather around the modular seating at the Hyundai showroom that smells of rubber.

Clouds clear, it’s 15° and big flies are basking on the white front doors of the terrace. I pass a man in canvas espadrilles and a wide brimmed straw hat down by the junction box with its doors open and wiring exposed. He’s talking to the young Sikh man who is sitting in his expensive black Mercedes with the roof down and his sunglasses on. 

The council are mowing the lawn under the Pampas grass on Lawton Street and on the new estate the developer-planted cherry and viburnum are finally usurping the fake plastic topiary.

“…Betty, its telling me you’ve put the wrong pin number in, love. Will you take it out and try again? No, no, wait for me, Betty. That’s it. Okay, you can put your pin in now, Betty”

A heron flies the length of the road and the woman in the three-quarter length taupe anorak is imperious. She stares Britannia like into the distance as her terrier pisses on the cotoneaster next to the Vauxhall Vectra with the bulldog bumper sticker.

A chunky young man with a regulation hairstyle and a Burberry check coat walks with his head on one side into the Food & Wine shop. He noticeably grimaces as he picks up two cans of Skol Super. “Two pounds please, love” says the avuncular woman in the turtleneck behind the counter.

In the 1970s village populated by the grown up cast of a Children’s Film Foundation movie and Stig of the Dump, most people in the bungaloid extensions share surnames with kids I went to primary school with. The daffodils are out in the churchyard and the jackdaws are squabbling violently as a Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack plays in my head. 

At the Frank Lloyd-Lite gated community on the hill where the dog walkers drive Mercedes vans, the cottage gardens are being torn up and replaced with Driveways of Distinction by young men who listen to hip-hop on site radios.

Sunday 19 March 2017

“I was thinking lily but that’s not a flower, is it?” says the drunk woman at 6am.

“I was thinking lily but that’s not a flower, is it?” says the drunk woman at 6 a.m. 

The wind assists me up the hill and blows the blossom from the trees outside the house where a five litre plastic container of screen-wash has been placed in each corner of the small front garden.

I turn down the poorly maintained track with the big view across the valley and pass the wheelie bins of the terrace with more greenery in the guttering than in the paved over gardens. 

There are primulas on the verges under polythene trees where a flock of noisy goldfinches has been squabbling all week. 

I follow a black and white cat onto the estate of headless buddhas, tailless schnauzers, earless rabbits, faded anoraks and unfashionable bell-bottom jeans in indigo. A grey haired man in chinos places a four pack of Galahad Premium Lager and a bag of green potatoes on his neighbour's doorstep next to the faded plastic meerkats on a seesaw.

Along the valley side past the discarded Top Bottoms DVD and the junction box graffiti. Past the muslim man, trousers tucked into socks. Past the teenage boys in tracksuits tops, sharing a joint. It’s sunny now, 19°, but the woman with the tasseled gold scarf is still hiding under the hood of her heavy coat.

The police helicopter hovers overhead as two women at the bus stop discuss the sexual assault featured in the local paper. “You can’t risk anything now, can you?” the younger woman says, “I was thinking of walking into work now the weather’s getting better but I’m not risking it.”
“I usually walk in” says the older woman, “If they see me they’ll run a mile anyway.”

Mouldy windfall apples line the slippery stone steps to the back-to-backs. I walk head first into the hanging basket of dead twigs next to the front door with “fucking crack bitch” scrawled across it in marker pen. I curse and make my way back out to the Co-op where I sit in the car park eating peanuts while the man with the Father Christmas bag-for-life hugs a spaniel.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Police sirens and heavy sleet

Police sirens and heavy sleet.

I follow the drunk man with the old Sainsbury’s bag-for-life who is making use of the full width of the generous pavements. He wears a three-quarter length camouflage jacket, very skinny jeans, and an enormous pair of brothel creepers. He goes into the Co-op at the second attempt and buys a bag of salmon and potato dog food.

Down from the dumpster full of brand new trainers, at the terrarium bus stop where ivy thrives behind the perspex, the women with the toddlers in pushchairs are discussing a mutual neighbour: “That twat over the road”.

A series of tiny swastikas have been etched into the pink CND graffiti on the junction box at the corner of the street. Next to it, a skinny man in a hooded top and tracksuit is gesticulating angrily to the Royal Mail driver who is performing a three-point-turn in the road. The driver winds down his window, ‘What?’ he shouts, exasperated. 
“You could have fucking done that in one!” says the hoody man, grinning. 
The postman smiles, “Only if I’d gone onto the verge, I didn’t want to damage the grass.” 
“Fuck the grass!” says the hoody man.
They both laugh and the hoody man waves as the Royal Mail man drives away.

It starts to snow and I pass a man riding a self-balancing board down the other side of the road. He pushes a baby in a pushchair past the bathroom scales that have been left propped against the base of a lamppost. 

The snow gets heavier and an old Renault Mégane pulls into a driveway. Quite a fat woman gets out wearing fluffy slippers and a silk dressing gown with a dragon motif embroidered onto the back. She walks quickly to the house as large snowflakes settle on top of her luxuriant mahogany perm.

The Royal Mail man makes his way up the path to the house where Smokie’s greatest hit blasts from an open window.  A man in his sixties answers the door: unshaven, bare feet, casual jogging pants. “I’m surprised to see you today,” he says, “I didn't realise you delivered on Sundays.”
“I don’t,” says the postman, “It’s Monday.”
“Shit! Is it?” exclaims the man, “What time is it?”

Two women in matching purple anoraks (the one on the left also has purple hair) are out for a brisk stroll in the woods. The sun has come out highlighting the tyre tracks on Mucky Lane. Holly trees glisten and squirrels scramble among the snowdrops. The clouds clear and the wet road surface that winds through the glade of expensive detached new-builds becomes a mirror reflecting retro oriel windows, fake lead flashings and jaunty medieval-lite gables. ‘It’s like a magical wonderland’ says the woman without the purple hair.

A van passes. Written on its side in a neat sans-serif it says Making Tomorrow a Better Place.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Past the Beech Tree with the Polystyrene Takeaway Tray in its Lower Branches

Past the beech tree with the polystyrene takeaway tray in its lower branches and the bin liner flapping from its bare canopy. 

Past the primary colours of the nursery school: ‘Be careful of Mia’s knee please Brandon’. 

Past the prefab school of dance and the rotten green Scout hut. 

Past the woman in black tassels who is standing still in the middle of the road, distracted by her phone. 

Past the big cardboard box, squashed and wedged between the lamppost and the wall. 

Past dead twigs in plastic pots, bent railings, leaded lights repaired with packing tape, the closed down pub with the dirty windows …

Left, down the cobbles and moss. Bare trees overhang green stone walls outside the 1980s vicarage where a blackbird is sounding the alarm and two stocky terriers are fighting by the overgrown chainlink tennis court. 

Dog owners shout. 

The fake bells of All Saints ring out from the P.A. in the church tower and the fat man in the Octavia empties his ashtray into the gutter.

There’s a man mending a caravan and shouting for Susan. 

The rag-and-bone man drives past the flats at high speed and rattles right by the house with the decorative concrete wall while the woman (maybe Susan?) in tight jeans and purple fleece looks on disapprovingly. 

The smell of the Aussie Burger grill is on the breeze outside Taste Buds takeaway—Is it the Aussie Burgers or is it weed? It might be a bit of both.

Drink cans and takeaway packaging have been impaled on the cast iron railings around the basketball court and down behind the broken old concrete fence where there’s a big view across the valley, the man in the noisy JCB is Improving Yorkshire's Sewers.

At the bottom of the narrow stone steps, the tall thin man with the dew drop on his nose stands on a portion control sachet of ketchup and it sticks to his shoe. I say Good Morning as we pass and he ignores me. At the top of the steps, his discarded tab end is still burning out next to a big flob of gob.

Saturday 28 January 2017

A scrappy formation of 258 geese honk in the sky above topiary conifers

A scrappy formation of 258 geese honk in the sky above topiary conifers and slimy green millstone. 

At the building site, the foreman with the obvious wig says, “Ooh, my condoms have arrived” as he takes the large parcel from the postman. He looks around the Portakabin for the approval of his hi-vis colleagues but they are all too busy eating their Pot Noodles. The postman smiles politely and leaves. Muttering to himself, he kicks a small hamster of sphagnum down the wooden steps in front of him.

Fieldfares flock in the field behind the cottage with the fake shutters that aren’t big enough for the windows. 

Leylandii hide the double-parked cars and block the winter sun. It’s warm. There are midges. The birds think it’s spring: wood pigeons, sparrows, starlings, a woodpecker, and the big flock of gulls circling above the tree line.

The moors are invisible in the mist and the men in their sixties at the clubhouse stand in groups of grey and navy with their hands in pockets, rocking on their heels. Their conversations about whether Chris or Darren should “look after the technical side when Geoff’s gone” are punctuated with the bleeping of Audi key fobs.

At the new-build fake-sandstone semis where the people carriers have Centre Parcs stickers on their windscreens and the gardens are still littered with firework casings, the builders are loading a heavy duty radio into a van, “Get yourself home, get your lunch and get your leg over and I’ll meet you back here this aft’”

Never Mind The Dog, Beware Of The Owner.

Friday 13 January 2017

It’s dark in the park because they’ve turned out the lights to save some money.

It’s dark in the park because they’ve turned out the lights to save some money. There’s a noisy owl in the wooded bit and the man with the little round glasses says he’s fucking freezing.

It’s 1° and the frost is still hard when I pass the man in the T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops who is struggling to fit a baby seat into an old Ford Focus. Across the street a thin woman is forcing cardboard packaging into her overflowing bin, “Fuck me!” she says to the teenage girls who are listening to speaker-phone hip-hop on the wall, “When are they gonna come and empty the chuffin’ bins, man?”

Down by the No Fly Tipping sign someone has fly tipped a broken wheelie bin. 

At the bottom of the hill between the two derelict fridges, two boys of about eight or nine are playing kerby while another boy throws small stones at them. They pause briefly when the angry old man in the polyester parka poises a tin can across the street. He climbs into a black Skoda Fabia and drives away at high speed and the boys carry on with their game.

Next to the end terrace with NOTE PRIVT PlS DON’T THROW RUBISH HERE painted on its gable end in foot high lettering there are three sodden old settees, two armchairs, a stained king-sized mattress, a wardrobe door, four split open bin liners of children’s clothing in a puddle, a small pile of rubble, a large cardboard box, a bit of an old tent, an empty Pepsi can, an empty Persil box and some snapped off bits of rotten timber.

On the side street of semis, a tall thin man in a black fleece and beanie is trying to look nonchalant while his dog pisses on his next door neighbour’s gate post. He glances casually through the front window to check he hasn’t been spotted. On the other side of the road, outside the house with the plastic-terracotta doorstep plant pots of couch grass and Haribo wrappers, the woman in her 60s is being patient with her Yorkshire terrier as it shits on the pavement. She stands over it anxiously with a little black plastic bag ready in her hand. Further along, there’s a pride of journalists with woollen overcoats and long lenses blocking the road outside the house of the man who was shot dead by the police yesterday.

Back in town, the Sports Direct assistant idly plays with his genitals while he waits for the young girl to try on some trainers.