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.