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!”
The man with the spittle in the corners of his mouth and the pull-along flowery shopping cart stoops to pick up an elastic band from the path and reveals a portion of his arse. “I collect elastic bands” he says. “Oh” I say. “Yeh, for my nephew, he makes balls out of them and you can bounce them quite high.”
I cross the main road and head down the hill into town. The houses on my side of the road bristle with Sky dishes and TV aerials. Across the street there are none. Pioneer vegetation grows along the bottom of the Victorian railings and up the steps to the front doors of once grand townhouses. Outside the Stonebaked And Grill Just Eat Download This App shop, the weeds are above waist height all the way along the frontage. They obscure the view of the torn upholstery in the window.
An old camper van passes with One Life, Live It across the front and I wonder whether this sentiment had been on the owner’s mind during the time he spent badly applying the decals of moose and wolves to the back and sides.
The crash barriers on the roundabout are bent and debris from a collision litters the road outside the chartered surveyor’s offices. I’m High up on the flyover above the ring road I can see shafts of sunlight illuminating the rolling stock waiting on the railway bridge below. In the distance the wet roofs of houses glare fierce reflected white.
A chunky bald man in a Huddersfield Town kit passes. He’s walking at great speed and the club crests tattooed on his calfs are a blur.
10am: Down by the Old Bridge a man in a black hoodie is walking backwards in the road, arms aloft, chanting incoherently and making provocative gestures at passing cars as they swerve around him.
At the mill, a man in a brown shop coat is smoking a cigarette outside, “Gi’us it here, it’ll be a pile o’shit anyway.”
Rusting metal uprights of a former fence top the wall around the big unmade car park—all puddles and hardcore. A large piece of rotten ply, the basis of a long gone sign spans four of the them, the rest are unoccupied except for the occasional straggles of impaled polythene which flutter like shit flags.
The pigeons around here are difficult to intimidate. They gather on pavements, hobbling about in packs headbutting the floor. I’m inches away before they finally put on a waddle or, if they’re half arsed, a scrappy two foot flight away from my boots.
A train rumbles over the bridge as I walk underneath.
It starts to rain heavily and the thin man in black with wire-rimmed John Lennon glasses and neck tattoos looks out at the sky, “Rough weather fo’ thi” he says.
The man wearing nothing but a pair of tight boxers and tattoos is very pleased with his parcel of Adidas trainers, “Respect. Respect. Respect” he says. “Can I take your name?” I ask. “Just put Daz. Respect”.
1pm: The weather brightens again. A couple in their sixties sit at the picnic bench on the green at the edge of the village. Behind them, their Border terrier is trying to get into the bins by the swings. It hangs from the aperture by its front paws, its back feet off the ground.
A kestrel hangs in the sky off the road that circumnavigates the top of the valley, completely motionless for about five minutes, like magic.
A sparrow wipes its beak on a wooden fence by repeatedly scraping it on alternate sides of the top rail. Maybe I’m sensitised by this pandemic but I’ve never thought I might be putting my hand in some sparrow gob when I lean on a fence.
Doorstep Diorama of the Day: a distinctly cross-eyed owl in concrete next to a potted begonia, next to a small black and white painted plastic panda, next to a life-sized concrete squirrel with the back of its head missing.