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; drifts of cherry blossom line pavements with dandelions, gorse, grit bins, double yellow lines.
At the house on the corner of the estate, the man in his sixties is admiring his new St George cross wind sock while at the bus stop in the road outside an elderly woman with a pull-along shopping cart pulls her face mask down to have a long drag on her cigarette.
10.30am. I park up next to the dirty Visitor Parking sign at the flats; scuffed brushed steel that still just about reflects the red of the van with a peeling inlayed sans serif in black. It’s come warm now and the bees are sniffing around the frenetic white azaleas. A man in a black baseball cap, black t-shirt and black jeans gets into a black Renault Megane. A large woodpigeon alights on the canopy of one of the neat new row of slender galvanised street lamps and a man in a Huddersfield Town shirt leans on a wheelie bin to sing the REM song, Losing My Religion in its entirety at the top of his voice.
“If their car’s not there, they’ll not be in” says the up tight miserable neighbour. “Can I leave it with you?” I ask. “I suppose so” he sighs, not getting up. The cheery “Thanks, pal. You’re doing a great job” comments have dried up in the new normal.
The chemist has been broken into over night, the big display window and both panels of the door have been boarded up. A woman in her fifties is on her phone in the queue outside, “I’m not being horrible but you know what I mean?”
A man wearing a face mask in the queue at the post office waves and shouts a muffled hello. I say hello back. He says something else unintelligible. “Pardon” I say. He muffles into his mask again and I still don’t know what he’s saying so I approximate what I hope is an appropriate response, a slight laugh accompanied by a “Yeah”. His face his covered by his mask but I get the impression that this is a friend rather than a customer. I try, but I can’t make out what he’s saying or who he is so I just do a more open-faced laugh and a more enthusiastic yeah.
I pull up in the road next to two men in their fifties in jeans and rugby shirts. They are standing in the road drinking cans of Foster’s lager.
The man of about sixty in the full Watford football strip picks up his parcel from doorstep using a jumper to protect his hands.
A couple of early swallows whip around the telegraph wires above the house where they have pressed the cockpit canopy of a small aeroplane into use as a greenhouse. Next door, the young woman in leggings and dark glasses is on her phone, “If somebody in my household is ill then they can’t make me go to work. It says THEY CAN’T MAKE ME GO TO WORK”