Saturday 1 February 2020

An extremely thin and roughly dressed man is pretending to walk an invisible dog

An extremely thin and roughly dressed man is pretending to walk an invisible dog as he crosses the ring-road holding a piece of string with a large rubber washer attached to the end. He casts around for a response from car drivers and fellow pedestrians but nobody is paying him any attention. A quarter of a mile down the main road, another skinny man sets off down the hill at an uncoordinated run. He stops suddenly, stands very still and straight on the kerb with his feet together. He composes himself for a few seconds and then pretends to perform an Olympic style high dive. He lands on his feet in the road, shakes pretend water from his hair, blows pretend water from his nose and raises an arm aloft to acknowledge the applause of an imaginary crowd.

Light drizzle, stiff breeze, overcast. Wind-blown leaves circle around the electricity substation. Above the trees, the crows are harrying a buzzard. In the trees, finches chatter and a woodpigeon hides its head under its wing. On the ground, the downy remains of a sparrowhawk kill line the gutter.

I pass the school where they have recently replaced one impossible slogan ‘a happy learning school where students exceed their potential’ with another, ‘Everyone, Exceptional, Everyday’. A few streets down somebody has created a large and unusual garden display. Dozens of succulents have been planted into sections of black plastic guttering and stuck to walls and fences with blobs of bright orange expanding foam. On the wall of the house adjacent to the front door, a collection of white pebbles of varying sizes has been attached using the same method. Next to the window of the front room, several flower boxes have also been ‘foamed’ to the house. These mainly contain spider plants whose leaves have been cut in half with a pair of scissors.

On the 1970s meat and potatoes estate, people wearing anoraks to protect themselves from doubt gather to witness to one-another in the name of The Powers That Be while plastic meerkats play on seesaws. The crows look on from the funny cypress trees.

The man who’s been pruning the big hedge leans on his broom and tells me about his holiday to Lanzarote: ‘We had a good trip round to see the lava where the volcano erupted and we had a meal. They cook you a chicken over the hole of the volcano and you can look down it. That was good and it was very reasonably priced which is unusual because you can usually only get a Coke for 10€ and I thought to myself, ‘That was a good trip out, that was’ but I wouldn’t really want to go again.