There’s a funeral about to start at the Anglican Church in a very racially diverse area of town. A steady stream of sombrely attired pensioners is filing in through the big wooden double doors accompanied by the workmanlike strains of the organ which ebb and flow on the wind. The road to the church is closed for resurfacing and the side streets are clogged with the double-parked cars of displaced residents. An elderly couple—he in a suit with two walking sticks and her with a Summer Wine perm, a three-quarter length floral print pleated skirt and very flat shoes—struggle past me as they slowly pick their way through. “It’s a right bloody nonsense, i’n’t it?” says the man. The woman waves her stick at the Suzuki Swift parked half on the pavement and shouts across to me “All these bloody cars! They shouldn’t be parked here!” She breaks off briefly to carefully navigate the kerb and then shouts over again “It’s all these browns, they should go and park in their own bloody carpark!”
Back out on the main road I wait at the lights behind a VW Camper with Come Back Guy Fawkes Your Country Needs You written across its back window and then turn off into another narrow maze of Victorian terraces. The big black 4x4 of the armed police unit is blocking the row of back-to-backs so I park the van and walk down with a parcel for the woman with all the plastic pansies. She answers the door and thanks me, then she glances over at the police in flak jackets across the street, rolls her eyes and closes the door again.
The pillar box opposite the house with the reproduction grotesques on the gate posts has been defaced with a half completed backwards swastika.
Up on the quieter terrace above the engineering works, I knock at the bleached red pink door but nobody comes. I knock again, a bit louder, but still nobody comes. I write out a notification card and push it through the letterbox and a woman in tight jeans and big round glasses comes out of the house next door. “He’s definitely in” she says “Give him another knock”. I knock hard on the door. Still no reply. “I’ll ring him” says the woman, producing an old pre-smartphone mobile from her pocket. She dials the number and stands on her step as it rings, biting her lip and craning her neck to try and see into her neighbour’s front room. There’s no answer. “I know he’s in!” she says and she jumps over the low wall between the houses. She shields the reflection from the window with her hand and peers in, “There he is! He’s there!” she shouts and she bangs on the window and jumps around waving. Ten seconds later, an elderly man opens the door “Hiya lad,” he says “I don’t know why I didn’t hear you. Sorry.” The woman from next door shouts across “Have you got your hearing aid in, Ernest?” “Sorry love, what was that?” says Ernest. The woman winks at me and addresses him again, “I’m off to the shop later, is there anything you need?” “I’ve no idea, I don’t know why I didn’t hear” says Ernest.