6am: bright, blustery, pavements strewn with tree litter, snails, woodpigeons, cow parsley, pink horse chestnut flowers, plastic bottles, tufts of couch grass between kerbstones. A woman with large black rimmed glasses is talking on her phone with a mouthful of raw carrot.
In the park, the noise of the crows, jackdaws and wood pigeons hasn’t woken the geese and the litter bin is in the pond.
On the bridge at Fitzwilliam Street, near the pile of nitrous oxide canisters in the gutter, a man carrying a car battery says hiya as his combover lifts gently in the wind.
I pass a scruffy faun-like man on Southgate near the university. The waistband of his grey marl sweatpants is twisted so that the inside-out pocket that would ordinarily be offset to one side is now flapping about in the centre at the base of his spine, like a goat’s tail.
In the village, the builders are listening to Bros on the site radio. This, blended with the church bells, the occasional rasping power tool and the popping of asphalt under tyres is the sound villages make. There are barn conversions with whimsical names, gravel and aubretia, boot jacks and botox. Goldfinches fertle around the George pub which had been under new management for the last five years but is now closed for good.
As I flick through a bundle of mail at the doctor’s surgery, the elastic band holding it together snaps, flies across the room and lands on the head of the elderly man at the front of the queue.
At the big bungalow by the church, the man is complaining bitterly about the previous owner’s porch again. He’s still angry about the porch even though he knew it was there when he bought it and he demolished it soon thereafter—over a year ago now. “Bloody porch! Why would you have a porch? Bloody pointless! I’d never have a porch."
At one of the terraced houses on the hill above the shops, the anvil in the back garden is decorated with little woodland bunny rabbits and garlands of plastic flowers. The doors of the garage are decorated with Schutzstaffel insignia.
A few doors down, a man with a Geordie accent reassures me about his aggressive sounding Border terrier. “She’s a noisy buggah. She’s missing her muthah. She’s gone out on her scootah.” He bends and addresses the dog directly. “What are yah? You’re a noisy Buggah”, and he raps her across the muzzle with a rolled up Farmfoods catalogue.
Out in the countryside, there are colourful pansies and slug pellets, cyclamen, clean up your dog mess signs, a broken porcelain wellington boot, six house bricks in a pile, repro stone grotesques, solar powered lights, two left footed boots with succulents growing in them, an anodised vase of white plastic peonies, a neat line of painted white rocks and a long-handled pooper-scooper hanging by a back door.
Fields of buttercups are traversed by phone wires and irregularly weathered fence posts. A single strand of barbed wire keeps the horses from escaping. A woman in a pink tabard with white binding is edging around her lawn with some long-handled shears. She looks up through her darkened Reactolites “I’m hoping to get this done before it rains”.
At the old peoples’ home, I press the button for the 3rd floor and a Fenella Fielding voice announces “Lift going up. Doors closing.”