Monday 3 August 2020

6.30am: unlike ten years ago, my neighbour doesn’t intercept me as I’m leaving for work

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 His blue wooden front door with the hand written notes pinned to it for the milkman has been replaced by a new composite door with a pretend oak veneer and a Smart doorbell with integral camera and intercom system.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.