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.
“Just throw it over the wall, buddy!” says the man with a savage little terrier under each arm — both these dogs have bitten me in the past. I throw his parcel, “Stay safe, buddy!”
I drive out to Storthes Hall student halls where in the autumn of 1979, my primary school headmaster and I delivered our Harvest Festival bounty. The imposing Edwardian building was a psychiatric hospital back then and some of the patients unnerved me. As I make my way up the driveway forty years and hundreds of visits later, memories of my headmaster's mark lll Cortina, the birdlike elderly woman who pinched at the sleeves of my coat and the dancing man with the dewdrop on his nose shadow my thoughts. This place, and the surrounding area will always be associated with that time. It will always be a creepy 1970s Children’s Film Foundation location with a Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack and there’s nothing my diligently objective re-appraisals can do about it.
I make my way down into the village and deliver mail addressed to the surnames of old schoolmates: Walker, Bowden, Wadsworth, Dyson, Armitage, Burgess, Cockroft, Hamshore, Battye, Booth, Haigh, Broadbent, Brown, Brook, Sykes, Gledhill, Holmes, Berry, Rollinson, Whitehead, Beever…
A man who looks like 70s Everton FC hero Bob Latchford is unloading groceries from the back of a Fiat Doblo but apart from him and the cat who is sleeping on the bin liner of garden waste outside number 31, the streets are deserted.
I leave parcels on doorsteps, knock on doors and back off to a safe distance like Mr Mackay at the school firework display.
“Cheers, bud! Stay safe, you’re doing a great job” says the man with the grey beard.
A woman’s voice, slightly muffled on the other side of a cypress hedge: “He says when the vaccine comes out he’s just gonna buy it and get us all done no matter how much it costs”.
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…”
At the last house in the village, opposite the field where the dangerous geese live, the garden has been modernised; tiny squiggles of terrier shit glisten on the plastic turf.