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. On, past joggers, ornamental lampposts, the shut up ice-cream pergola, the Boer war soldier, down the steep hill where the modern day discount Sisyphus struggles with his 10kg bag of potatoes; every day I’ve passed 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 older 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 6am. 

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 and 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 M├ęgane 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 new 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. 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 Pot Noodle. 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 60s 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 clothes 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 beenie 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 knob while he waits for the young girl to try on some trainers.