I took a photograph on the hour every hour and captioned it with the first thing that was said to me after having done so.
Wednesday, 23 September 2020
Thursday, 17 September 2020
I took a photograph at half past the hour every hour and captioned it with the first thing that was said to me after having done so.
Monday, 7 September 2020
Sunday, 6 September 2020
I took a photograph on the hour every hour and captioned it with the first thing that was said to me after having done so.
7am: Looks like I'm getting hammered here.
8am: I'm in (van no.) CV18. That was close, I nearly got CV19.
9am: Cheers. Cheers. Thank you. Cheers.
10am: Hiya. Thanks. Bye.
11am: Hello. Thank you. Have a good day.
12noon: Sorry, we had the dryer on, we didn't hear you.
1pm: I'm up at Hall Bower! I've got 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 left. I'll see you on Jackroyd.
2pm: Richard Dawson and Lily Allen. All paid for. Do you need a bag?
Friday, 4 September 2020
I took a photograph on the hour, every hour and captioned it with the first thing that was said to me after having done so.
7am: Who's making Harmesh swear now?
8am: To be honest the mechanic shouldn't be parked there, should he?
9am: Eagle's just given me thirteen chuck-outs. That's an hour more work he's just given me, the dozy bastard.
10am: The numbering's funny round here. I think it's the end one, right round the back. If it's not that one, it's the one next door. It's definitely one of those two anyway.
11am: Can you just leave them on the bench, I'll be out for them shortly.
12 noon: Sweet, mate.
1pm: Oh hello, what's this then?
2pm: Just leave it with her. She'll not say owt and I'll not say owt so... It'll be right.
Thursday, 3 September 2020
7am: What were you doing having a day off yesterday? It was mad busy. Disgraceful.
8am: Have you heard what those kids did to that bloke at Linthwaite? It was in the Examiner yesterday. They tried to cut his head off.
9am: Have you seen Porky’s?
10am: WARNING! PLEASE INSURE [sic] THE HANDBRAKE IS FULLY APPLIED BEFORE LEAVING THE VEHICLE.
11am: WARNING! PLEASE INSURE [sic] THE HANDBRAKE IS FULLY APPLIED BEFORE LEAVING THE VEHICLE.
12 noon: Sorry, wet dog! She's very wet and muddy.
1pm: Thank you very much. Cheers. That's lovely. Bye.
2pm: Good afternoon, is that for us?
Sunday, 9 August 2020
Mrs Hicks has spilt something down her front. She’s in the kitchen window dabbing at her black and white striped jumper with a damp cloth. Behind her, at the kitchen island, Mr Hicks sits with his laptop open. In the road outside, a jackdaw is eating a squirrel.
In town, the tall thin man I often see raiding bins for food is in WH Smith’s. A dew drop falls from his nose and lands in the pages of the boxing magazine he’s reading. He shuts it and puts it back on the shelf. Meanwhile, the man in the anorak in the queue for the checkout is saying he thinks 60p for a Cadbury’s Cream Egg is daylight robbery.
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Entries from this blog for the period 3rd August 2010 - 25th February 2018 are available in book form, published by the brilliant Uniformbooks
Monday, 3 August 2020
6.30am: unlike ten years ago, my neighbour doesn’t intercept me as I’m leaving for work to show me one of those shallow tin trays that chickens come in when you buy them from a supermarket. “Marks and Spencer” he said, holding it aloft, “It came free with the chicken”. He died three years ago. His blue wooden front door with the hand written notes pinned to it for the milkman has been replaced by a new composite door with a pretend oak veneer and a Smart doorbell with integral camera and intercom system.
It’s dry, overcast and mild with a stiff chilly breeze. I set off up my road past the man with the long goatee beard, tattoos, black hoodie and Labrador on a lead with a harness. The weeds have grown mature between the cracks in the flags and in places along the base of the walls the lockdown pioneer re-wilding is shoulder height.
A scree of beech nut husks litters the road under the big trees at the edge of the wood. There are squirrels bouncing around in the canopy.
When I filmed the road sign at the entrance to the wood on October 3rd 2010, it was barely legible because of the bright green lichen that covered its surface. The sign has since been replaced but the new one is already developing the same verdant patina.
I reach the point at which, exactly ten years ago I noticed a figure lying face down on the pavement up ahead. I got a bit closer and I saw his right arm move. He rolled briefly onto his side and back onto his front, where he lay still again. He was wearing new, clean clothes: plaid shirt, dark blue denim jeans and expensive looking trainers. As I passed, I asked him whether he was okay. He rolled onto his side again. He was young, mid-twenties, dark curly hair. “I’m just bored”, he said. “Oh, as long as your okay”. “Have you got a spare cig?” he asked. “No” “Okay” and he rolled back onto his front. Today, the men who have been installing the new high speed internet cables have fenced off the spot where he was lying.
A woodpigeon hobbles around at the entrance to the park. The new sign on the gate reads “Love this space, put your rubbish in the bin or take it home with you.” Inside, the now resident black headed gulls have ransacked a bin, dispersing its contents as far away as the little Japanese tea-house ice-cream kiosk.
A man in a hi-vis vest passes me on an electric bicycle. He turns off up the path into the children’s playground where he dismounts, props the bike against the frame of the swings and sits down at one of the picnic benches. Meanwhile, the man in the beige anorak is walking laps of the pond. He does this every morning. The resting ducks are so used to him that they don’t bother to move out of his way and he has to skirt around them.
Tuesday, 21 July 2020
6am: The weather is quick and breezy, tearing bright holes in the grey duvet of cloud. Slivers of blue come and go. Pavements are greasy from last night’s rain and there are puddles in the potholes in the road. In the park, Milly is chasing the tall thin man in the blouson jacket as he rounds the corner by the temperance fountain. She’s barking furiously. “Milly! Milly! Milly!” shouts the woman in the leggings. “She barks at that man every morning. It’s awful!”
Friday, 26 June 2020
Responses to being asked ‘How are you?’
Sunday, 14 June 2020
At the flats an emaciated looking man in a 90s blouson tracksuit top and torn combat pants stops me. 'Scuse me mate can you spare me thirty, forty pee for summat to eat?' I apologise, I’ve got no cash on me. 'It’s all right, mate. I didn’t know you were the fucking parcel man.'
‘Is it for my nana? She’s been waiting for a parcel!’ asks the small boy ‘I don’t know’ I say, 'Is your nana’s name Jacqueline Smith?’ ‘Oh no,’ says the boy, ‘Her name’s Nana Jacquie’.
A man is walking towards me on the same side of the pavement. He’s wearing a grey hiker’s soft-shell jacket and trouser combination. I step out into the road to keep a social distance. He doesn’t look up from his Patrick O’Brian paperback.
It’s unseasonably warm and still. The asphalt outside the post office is melting and Mrs Woodhead is chasing a budgerigar around her front room in a bikini. Up on the hillside above the town there are fields of buttercups to the left and an elevated view across the whole of the valley on the right. Ivy and brambles grow along the dry stone walls where the jackdaws perch unruffled by any wind. Elderflower crowns the overgrown verge side vegetation; brambles, thistles, couch grass and nettles as high as the walls. I pass a woman hiking in an Aussie rules jersey with her phone on a lanyard around her neck. Phone cables hang from their poles like sound waves into the distance. A sun bleached road cone guards a hole in a rusty barbed wire fence where I say hello to the man with the Sebald moustache—or is it the postman from Mr Tickle? The hazy scent of summer swells; baking tree litter and fresh new foliage. Clouds wisp. Outside the hillside terrace, a well seasoned grit bin is almost buried in the undergrowth. The metal clasp on the lid has broken but part of the hinge is still in place and leached rust streaks the chunky faded yellow plastic. A chubby young man astride a stationary motorbike is talking to his elderly neighbour about the coronavirus. 'I’m not going back. I’m never using public transport again after this'. Further along, a man in denim jeans and a faded blue t-shirt says the view across to Holme Moss is stunning and I agree. A couple in their sixties sit on a bench surrounded by some unusually tall mother-die, she’s pointing out something on the horizon and he squints into the distance as two grey haired cyclists in lycra crest the hill.
In the village, a loud blackbird is singing in the big sycamore by the church, below it on the pavement are spatters of avian abstract expressionism. A big white cow lumbers down the sloping field in the distance towards the woman in the white vest top and coral pink shorts. She’s reaching for something in an orange bandolier style bag.
I’ve spoken to only four people in the last hour and a half. Just brief hellos to the young skateboarder in grey shorts and backpack, the young man with the big hair and nineties baggy skate clothes, the man in the pink polo shirt who was washing his Mercedes with a hosepipe, and the woman in with the blue twin set and full skirt who was chasing her long haired corgi down the road because the paper boy had left the gate open again. 'You postmen never leave the gate open!' she shouts as she disappears up the path of the graveyard.
Jackdaws are chasing starlings and house martins are fighting over the old nests on the terrace. Among all the regular goldfinches, sparrows and robins I see the first greenfinch I’ve seen for years as well a bullfinch, a chiffchaff and a spotted flycatcher.
Just as Mr Russell with the homemade automaton post box predicted it begins to rain heavily. His peony blooms have been flattened to the floor and there are petals everywhere. The light wispy flakes of sun dried leaves in the gutters are now a thick dark porridge and the rain is coming down with such force that it’s bringing with it a fresh green covering of foliage.
Later, in the baked goods aisle of the supermarket a man with a Roy Orbison lockdown hairstyle and purple flowery shirt fumbles in the pocket of his long-in-the-leg jeans for his phone. It rings loudly with the opening few bars of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. Over by the cooking sauces two members of staff are replenishing the Old El Paso Original Smoky Fajita Kits. 'I mean, did you see all the media outside his house just because of what he did for his child?' 'I know, it’s like who can honestly say, hand on heart, that they’ve not broken any of the rules.' 'I know, I mean it’s like, as long as you’re not stupid'.
Wednesday, 20 May 2020
It’s a bright morning. A light breeze. A blackbird is singing in the sycamore tree above the nerf gun bullets in the gutter. Two furloughed men in polo shirts are talking loudly across an expanse of Luxury Artificial Grass—no mowing, no watering, no weeding. ‘It’s our lass’s birthday today’ says the one in the navy blue shorts. ‘Did you get her owt?’ Asks the other one in the navy blue shorts. ‘A shredder. She’s always shredding stuff and the old one’s broken.’ ‘Oh. Have you heard about Little Richard…?’
Tuesday, 5 May 2020
6.25am: A warm draught of strong weed infiltrates the van via the open vent on the dashboard and the woman in the new KIA Sportage in front throws a joint out of the window as she pulls away from the lights. It’s a bright morning but it’s rained over night and traffic splashes through potholes on the road of mainly builders’ wholesalers. The pub on the corner where all the punk bands played in the 80s has been boarded up for years.
Later, on the edge of town where the Chinese students live, wheelie bins clutter the pavements—fourteen in one short terrace of six houses. I pass the Peugeot up on bricks with no radiator grill and the Lithuanian Mercedes with four flat tyres. I stop at each front door: white wooden, white wooden, brown wooden, white plastic, black composite, white plastic with scaffolding and a big pile household belongings on the pavement outside; three pull-along trollies spilling their contents into the road, clothes, books, a toaster…
On the estate on the moor, couch grass, dandelions and dock leaves have colonised the joints between the edge of the pavement and the kerb as well as the gaps between the kerb and the asphalt of the road; neat double rows of foot high pioneer vegetation line the Avenues, Closes, Rises and Crescents.
A gang of kids on bikes swarm around my van (they’re not doing social distancing around here), one of them opens the back doors and when I slam them shut again I am threatened. “I’LL SMASH YOUR FUCKING STUPID FACE AND BREAK THOSE FUCKING STUPID GLASSES” says the oldest of them, probably about sixteen.
An elderly couple are out for their lockdown walk. The woman—purple anorak and grey trousers—waits patiently for the man—washed out black anorak, walking stick. He’s stopped to inspect the planning notice which is cable tied to the lamp post opposite the post office.
Many years ago I would relieve the monotony of my post round by performing it in the style of somebody else. One of the personas I adopted was that of a weather-beaten old hill farmer from somewhere up on the moors. I would shout Eyup! to people and go on about how I was a bit nesh or say it was looking black over Bill’s mother’s. It occurs to me now that I pretty much do my round like that for real these days. It’s like that bit in Colditz where Wing Commander Marsh tries to trick the guards by feigning insanity but actually goes mad in the process.
There are goldfinches in the broken cherry and a blackbird is singing on the summit of a forty foot Leylandii. Dandelions are clocking, the cypresses are yellowing with new growth. A flock of starlings is pecking around in amongst the buttercups in the big field at the back of the estate.
The man with the tidy beard is inspecting the not quite sunken enough lights of his herringbone driveway. Most of them are cracked. At the house opposite, with the bench press and a quad bikes parked on the plastic lawn, a drift of pink cherry blossom underlines the grey plastic fence.
The hi-vis driver is delivering trays of white sliced to the post office. The postmaster comes out in an Adidas baseball cap and an old fashioned looking shell suit top to sign the delivery docket. He reaches up to the driver on the raised tail lift and hands him back his clipboard. They thank each other with a small salute style wave and the postmaster walks off dragging his biro along the powder coated railings of the day care centre.
Back at the office, one of my colleagues tells me he thinks the whole coronavirus thing is a hoax anyway, he says the NHS is still functioning well below its capacity and the new Nightingale hospitals are all empty. Another of my colleagues shows me a film he shot on his phone of the UFO he saw hovering above his house a couple of weeks ago. I tell him he should show it to my boss, he’s an expert on UFOs. He says he was abducted by aliens from Pendle Hill when he was a boy.
Tuesday, 28 April 2020
On the ridge tiles above the 1:6 scale Laurel and Hardy and the twice life-size rabbit, I notice a heron surveying the sleepy bungaloid exension. I point it out to the man with the hosepipe and he tells me it’s been kicking about for days.
It’s the season of sunny pinks and yellows. Dandelions, gorse, grit bins, double yellow lines and cherry blossom lined pavements.
Thursday, 9 April 2020
A pair of deer bound along the back of the 90s estate. “Have you got a light?” ask the teenage boys who aren’t doing social distancing. 'No' I say as I round the corner. At one of the semis, a big jowly man with a shaved head walks up the path and a dog’s bark fractures the silence. The man responds with a much deeper, even louder bark of his own and the middle-aged couple in matching grey anoraks who are taking their exercise allowance quicken their pace. They head off towards the top end of the estate where the houses have Quality Driveways.
Monday, 6 April 2020
Past the mid-century RIBA award winner, the ivy clad tumbledown drystone, the elderly man exercising in Hushpuppies, the field of molehills, the Golden Cock, the lycra cyclists, the girl with the earbuds, the topless builder, the row of red brick semis, the neighbours who’ve forgotten about social distancing, the pulmonary pandemic silhouettes of bare trees, Julie waving from her van, the curtain twitchers who are relishing their new authority.
Up the hill, past the farm with no doubt a very dangerous slurry pit, past the Miss Haversham gables of the old vicarage, past the jackdaws bickering in the belfry, past the postbox and the pub, past the field of lambs and mangold wurzels to the brick semis with the tongue and groove fascias—pansies in pots on the doorsteps. A landline rings from behind a glass front door. A man’s voice, “There’s people on at me who don’t even know when their next fucking wage is coming in…”