Sunday, 4 October 2015

The man two seats in front of me on the bus was wearing 1980s suit trousers

The man sitting two seats in front of me on the bus was wearing 1980s suit trousers, a beige anorak, and something that looked like it could have been bird shit in his hair. He was repeatedly slapping himself about the head and face. 
Behind me, the important-in-corduroy-man was begging to differ with the woman with the bag-for-life opposite, "It's not! It's gonna be another sodding Chinese! Why we need another sodding Chinese when there's already one at the bloody bottom I don't know!” he said. He went on to explain that he'd given up drinking but the woman looked sceptical.

The weather has turned over the last few weeks and they’re selling Christmas decorations at Sainsbury's and Morrison's and, the dry cleaners on the ring-road is offering a “Seasonal Ugg Boot Cleaning Service”.

On the moor, acorn and oak-leaves litter the pavement next to the beagles’ kennels. There’s shattered green glass in the gutter. There are concrete lampposts (Concrete Utilities Ltd) and GPO manhole covers, and a pile of dead wood behind an ivy covered wall. There are ferns and holly, rose hips, barking dogs, and cawing crows in the top of the trees. The house with the half-dozen muddy turnips on the doorstep is being clad in pretend wood. 

At the bottom end of the estate, driveways are being resurfaced with that glue-on stuff that looks like the top of a crumble—quite tasty. There are plastic lawns too, and rusty super-minis, and Octavia Hackney carriages. There are new plastic drain-grates and concrete top-stones to replace the stolen originals.

At the top of the estate, where the big, detached houses are, there are leylandii, succulents, rockeries and Alpines, some big toadstools that weren’t there yesterday, a beech hedge, a big overhanging silver birch, ornamental lampposts, pretend mail boxes that are actually bird boxes, yellow grit bins, water butts, high maintenance borders, patios, Burglars Beware neighbourhood watch signs, fire hydrants, bird baths, sundials, and vibrant hi-vis moss in the grikes between the expensive driveway setts. There was a power cut and all the burglar alarms went off at once.

Monday, 21 September 2015

A heron flew over Dale Cottage

A heron flew over Dale Cottage where the last of the pink fuchsias were poking out from holes in the blanket of fallen leaves and a woodpecker was assaulting the peanut feeder. On the driveway, the man in the blue Vauxhall Zafira with the ladders on the roof was listening to some contemporary pop music at high volume. He rocked back and forth enthusiastically in the driver’s seat, mouthing the words with a screwed-up, cum face. 

In the best kept village that smells of 2-stroke chainsaw oil, where the houses are never, ever finished, the builders have moved on a generation. Out have gone those firms, traditionally named after their proprietor, whose contractors have broad Yorkshire accents, gold earrings and 80s hits on their heavy duty radios: Don’t You Want Me, Baby? And in have come the firms named after a single word synonym for ‘house’—E.g. Home, Abode, Dwelling, Base—whose contractors have tattoo sleeves, full-face beards, and 90s hits on their heavy duty radios: A Design For Life
At the big house in the woods, one of the modern, 90s builders was hoovering the pattern imprinted concrete driveway while another was spreading a smelly solvent sealer onto it with a yard brush.

At the house with the big view, the woman in a bathrobe was talking to her neighbour, the man in the lumberjack shirt who has retired to make chainsaw carvings of owls to sell at country art fairs. Her, as yet unreconstructed builder, was up a ladder carrying out some never-ending repairs while listening to a histrionic heavy rock guitar solo from about 1986: Livin’ on a Prayer“I had the pheasant and Richard had the grouse,” the woman explained, “It was really nicely cooked. Really nice. Lovely."

Friday, 4 September 2015

A cyclist with squeaky brakes and a pair of crutches strapped to his back passed me as I walked into work.

A cyclist with squeaky brakes and a pair of crutches strapped to his back passed me as I walked into work. 

Later, on the bus with some other men in high visibility clothing, the main topics of conversation were caravans, caravan based holidays, and the football transfer window.

I got off at the nursing home and followed the woman on the mobility scooter past the ivy-covered lamp-posts, the pink hydrangeas, the smeared dog shit and the sandwich packaging. I turned off along the terrace with no front gardens; a long row of tele’ backs and cable knots. 
I turned off again, into the terrace of contrasts; a stinking dog piss accreted yard of crisp packets, expanding foam, dandelions and empty milk cartons next door to an obsessive's mini Versaille with hover flies, succulents and fancy gravels.

The clock tower struck the hour and the running man with the dog jumped over the spilt grab bag of Maltesers; neat parallel rows of chocolate beads lined up in the grate of the storm drain.

Out from the tidy side street of bungalows, the old ladies began to flock with their hair set, their trouser suits pressed, their shoes gold and their shopping bags for life. They each rounded the corner into the main road and got a wet slap in the face from the big overhanging buddleja.

I carried on past the sheltered houses with their gladioli in planters, beige washing lines and hand written No Parking signs; past the back-to-backs where the dock leaves grow from the thick green snail-slime striated moss on the stone steps below the leaky guttering; past the fairy lights and decking, the cooking sauce jars and squashed slugs and blackberries; on up to the new estate with the fake bricked-up windows, the concrete lintels and architraves, the pretend leaded lights, the miniature gardens—where the box shrubs have already overstepped their boundaries—and the herringbone paving in the communal parking bays: A small Honda, a large Honda, an Astra and a Citroen C1… I cut across the sodden plastic lawn—laid directly over stone flags—to the big, gated Victorian, Atkinson Grimshaw mansions whose wide-as-a-street driveways are bordered with poplar, rhododendron, holly, begonia, topiary teddy bears, ferns and golden beech leaves on neatly trimmed lawns; the first fall of autumn. The only other person around was the happy old man with the walking frame.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Rookery

The Rookery, a short film I shot in Hebden Bridge between February and May this year, will be screened this Saturday. The film stars walkers, bikers, canal boaters, skaters, the woman in the pinny with the squirty cream under her arm, the man who is holding up a bottle of HP sauce, the man who is inside a burger bun, the woman with the purple fleece and matching hair, a box of organic pale ale, Coco and Dior, a crocodile of primary school children, Geoff, A brace of lilac waterproofs, permissive pathways, suggestive trees, a Peugeot 208, a pedigree Weimaraner, exposed purlins, a banoffee pie, the Emergency Gas Response man, an Everlast punch bag, and a psychic evening featuring psychometry…

Featuring a soundtrack by the excellent Jack Reid & the Black Whip:

Further details here:

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

6am: it’s quiet in the street apart from the man in the black track-suit who is singing

6am: it’s quiet in the street apart from the man in the black track-suit who is singing an indefinable ‘song’ quite loudly outside Ali Barber’s barber shop.

10am: In town the old woman in the open-toed sandals is waiting to cross the road outside the supermarket with her Inca inspired bag-for-life. Next to her is a younger man in a red, yellow, green and black striped Rasta cap and a pink shirt. They cross the road together and make their way round the pile of rubble that was, until last week, the old university sports hall. They pass a soberly dressed man at the bus stop—shiny black shoes, grey suit trousers, pale pink shirt—who is drinking a can of extra strength lager.

11.30am: In the suburbs the tarmac is melting. The sun is out, the hydrangeas are out, the big men in shorts and flip-flops are out. A swarm of bees has taken up residence in a crack in the wall of the contract weaver’s shed and the man in the leather gauntlets says ‘All right, mate?’ to me outside the shop that sells mainly tinned peas, jars of tuna paste, and extra-strength cider. My old school teacher has moved house and the new owner has paved over the garden and replaced the big old gloss-black hardwood door and leaded lights with white UPVC. There has been a proliferation of CND graffiti around here recently.

12.30pm: The knackered old boat that I sometimes park up behind for cover while I have a quick brew, is gone. I ask the man who is pouring some readymix where it is. He says I've just missed it—some blokes have been to tow it away. Around the corner onto the main road, I see it, stationary and listing badly; one of the wheels has fallen off the trailer.

3pm: The man in front of me in the queue asks for an e-cigarette charger. The proprietor ducks behind the counter, rummages around and comes back up with a USB phone charger.
‘No’ says the man, ‘It’s for my e-cigarettes’.
The proprietor disappears into a storeroom and returns with a large plastic box. He sits it on the counter and pulls out three or four different USB phone chargers.
‘No’ says the man, ‘It’s for my e-cigarettes—you know, a three pin plug for the mains with a bit that you screw onto the cigarette at the other end.’
The proprietor rummages through the box again and pulls out another USB phone charger.
‘I tell you what’ says the man ‘Give me 20 Chesterfield Lights’.
The proprietor rolls up the shutter to the tobacco cabinet, takes out a packet of 20 JPS and puts them on the counter with all the phone cables.
‘No’ says the man, ’20 Chesterfield Lights. There, bottom left.’
The proprietor replaces the packet of JPS and returns with a packet of JPS Blue.
‘No’ says the man, ‘I tell you what, Give me 20 Rothmans Superkings, right in the middle there.’
The proprietor replaces the JPS Blue, takes out the Rothmans and hands them over.
‘Thank you’ says the man.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The black liner of the wire litter bin outside the Costcutter had blown inside-out...

The black liner of the wire litter bin outside the Costcutter had blown inside-out in the wind and was flapping about inflated like a smaller, less cocksure, banana and ketchup stained version of the promotional ‘air-dancers’ they used to have outside the Fiat garage when it was a Peugeot one.
A delivery van pulled up and the driver got out. While he was unloading fruit and veg’ he explained how he’d earlier mistaken his own reflection in his misaligned nearside wing mirror for another person and, in the resulting confusion had almost hit a wall.
The KIA saloon with the office chair and the postcard display rack strapped to its roof drove past—as it did the day-before-yesterday.

When the old man who was cleaning his immaculate 12-year-old Ford Mondeo initially engaged me in conversation, I’d assumed he was just being friendly to a stranger, but when he asked me a technical question about the tactics employed by the Huddersfield Giants at their last game, I wondered whether he had mistaken me for somebody else. Not being much of a fan of rugby league, I confessed I had no idea what he was talking about. At first the man looked confused but then he smiled, got up from where he’d been crouching to polish the chrome of his vintage AA radiator grill badge, and persisted with the subject—presumably assuming I was just amusing myself by teasing him. I reasserted my ignorance on the matter and voiced my suspicion that I wasn’t who he thought I was. Once more, the man briefly looked confused, nervously wrapping his duster around his hand, but again he smiled and continued on the subject. As he seemed so convinced I was somebody I wasn’t, I began to doubt myself; perhaps we had met before and I’d forgotten. Maybe he’d brought up the Huddersfield Giants in conversation on that occasion too and I’d somehow given him the impression that I had some interest and knowledge on the subject—It could easily happen during the course of small talk in a queue or on a bus. I decided to go with this scenario and explained that while I do like to keep an eye on the Giants’ results (an outright lie) I don’t consider myself to be much of an expert and have no worthwhile opinion on their tactics. At this, the man smiled, raised his hands to his eyes like blinkers and said conspiratorially, “I know! It’s all claret and gold with some people, isn’t it?”
At this point we were interrupted by the two builders who were sitting side-by-side on some scaffolding while they chiselled render from the house next door. They had begun singing R Kelly’s I Believe I can Fly at the tops of their voices. The old man looked up and shouted over, “Give it a rest now lads!” but it had no effect.
Further down the road I got talking to the woman with the low maintenance hairstyle and the perhaps inadvisable vest-top-with-no-bra. She was telling me about the house she used to live in when she was younger. 
“Where was that?” I asked. 
She waved an enormous arm in the vague direction of half of Huddersfield and said, “You know, number 23 do-dah.”

On, and up past the quarry, the airfield, the firework factory and the caravan park to the cul-de-sac of neat 1960s bungalows where the sound of Woman’s Hour was leaking from open kitchen windows and the air smelled of freshly cut laylandii, there was talk of chimineas; “Good grief, how many of these are we having?”
Round the corner at the doctors’ surgery, which was empty apart from an elderly woman and an elderly man who were staring impassively at different walls at either end of the waiting room while Lessons in Love by Level 42 played through the discreetly mounted speakers at quite a high volume.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Rookery: rescheduled screening details.

The screening of The Rookery, a film I made for Hebden Bridge Arts festival has been rescheduled for 4.30pm on 5th September at Hebden Bridge Picture House. It is a free event. Trailer below.

Friday, 10 July 2015

On the Estate where Pretend Owls outnumber the Human Population by Two to One, there have been some New Editions.

On the estate where pretend owls outnumber the human population by two to one, there have been some new editions: a tiny little motorbike-and-sidecar with solar powered head-lamps; a concrete kitten; a miniature, pretend-stone elephant—curled up, asleep; lots of new meerkats and Buddhas and, an entire garden stocked exclusively with faded plastic flora and fauna. 
The underlying murmur of people in tight shorts commenting on the warm weather to one another all day long is occasionally punctuated with the noise of power tools and the yelping of small dogs. 
Over by the abandoned Renault Camper, a man in his 70s is showing his new Teddy bear to the woman with pictures of wolves all over her T-shirt.

Further up the valley, outside the High School, the road sweeping man is picking up Maoam wrappers with an extendable litter-picker, soft-toy trophy-lynchings swinging from the handle of his cart.
The fine weather has brought out the clover, the daisies, the bird’s foot trefoil, the mother-die, buttercups, foxgloves, honeysuckle, and the old woman with her specs on a chain who shuffles past a pile of dried dog shit in her open-toed sandals.

Out in the sticks, a hen pheasant flaps out from under the five bar gate at the bottom of the field with the old bath tub in it, and a Porsche 4x4 blows past with its windows open, trailing aftershave. 
Outside the village hall there are pots of marigolds around an old church pew with chintz cushions. There’s ivy, there are climbing roses, yew hedges, willow and birch. There are gravel paths with moss edging, potted geraniums and snap-dragons. There are spaniels and Labradors, and pairs of upside-down gardening shoes covered in lawn clippings. There is best bitter, and Radio 4, and Botox, and swallows and martens in the outhouses. Happy golfers wave me past the tee. The stolen top-stones have already been replaced.

It starts to rain summer rain; fat drops that leave big Dalmatian spots on the millstone flags. At the big house with the yellow lichen gables, the old man with the comb-over and frayed grey flannels is frustrated, “I’ve just come out to do a bit in the garden and bugger me if it hasn’t started raining.”

At the modernist house that is being extended using mainly large sheets of chipboard, the builders are discussing an episode of Top Gear in voices that carry.
“Wasn’t it funny when that caravan tried to overtake on the inside — on that bumpy bit?”
“You think we have a good laugh at work, imagine being them!”
A woman walks past with a big Siberian husky, then a jogger who is going barely fast enough to overtake them — he’s wiping the rain from his glasses with the hem of his Scotland football shirt.

The old woman at the farm asks whether I’ve got a mac in my van. I say I have and she gives me a double thumbs up and a big grin; “Well, go and put it on, I can see the blobs all over your shirt.”

Back in town the woman with the long-haired dachshunds is talking to the man taking photographs from the viewing point in the park.
“It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?
“Yes,” says the man
“We don’t appreciate it enough, living round here, do we?”

Sunday, 21 June 2015

In the Close Humidity of Snapped off Saplings

In the close humidity of snapped off saplings, the broken concrete, the takeaway flyers, footballs in trees and trainers on wires; the dirty scrap man with the homemade tattoos is here for the Ikea bedstead. 
Two teens with half-closed eyes smoke weed while their Staffy intimidates the old Asian woman in salwar kameez.
The shop is stuffy and smells of dog food. A young woman buys four bottles of Fruit Shoot, “I water them down but he still acts like a wild-child, It’s a bloody nightmare!”

Further up the valley, in the open breeze of the swaying beech trees, the laburnum, rhododendron, and the topiary box footballs; the Abel & Cole man buzzes around in a tidy fleece jacket and yellow van.
The council gardener is sitting on the kerb mixing up some two-stroke in a jerry can while his colleague is on his knees lifting out dandelions at the base of the school fence.

A man walking a Cairn terrier, passes, “Are you lost?” he says. I’ve no idea why.

Litter Survey: Fitzwilliam Street to Church Street, via Greenhead Park, Heaton Road, and Branch Street.
Date: Wednesday, 17th June 2015
Weather: Warm, dry, still
Duration: 24 mins

Costa take-out cup.
Coca-Cola plastic bottle
Mayfair cigarette packet
Greggs take-out plastic cup
Richmond cigarette packet
Greggs take-out paper bag
Benson & Hedges cigarette packet.
Kinder Bueno packaging
Train ticket
7up drink can
Pile of indeterminate cigarette butts
Coca-Cola plastic bottle
Polystyrene takeaway container
Dairy Milk wrapper
Haribo sweet packet
Benson & Hedges cigarette packet
Wheat Crunchies packet
Richmond cigarette packet
Rizla packaging
Kellogs Coco Pops Snack Bar wrapper
Ribena plastic bottle
Benson & Hedges cigarette packet
Benson & Hedges cigarette packet
Expired DVLA tax disc
Capri Sun carton
Till receipt
Pages from The Huddersfield Examiner
Polystyrene cup
Capri Sun carton
Two ’wet wipes’
A child’s seaside fishing net
Mayfair cigarette packet (20)
Mayfair cigarette packet (10)
Pile of indeterminate cigarette butts
Coca Cola can
Costa sugar wrapper
Boost Energy Drink can
Pepsi can
Maoam sweet wrapper
Mr Freeze packaging
Rubicon mango drink can
Walkers Cheese & Onion crisps
Mayfair cigarette packet
Plastic fork
Polystyrene cup
Polystyrene cup
Paper serviette
Plastic water bottle (indeterminate brand)
A hair roller
Snickers wrapper
Lucasade bottle
Wrigley’s Extra chewing gum wrapper
Paracodol packaging
Lambert & Butler cigarette packet

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Postman Leans Against the Bus Shelter and Squints into the Squall

The postman leans against the bus shelter and squints into the squall, “As long as my fags and my phone are dry, I don’t give a shit about anything else,” he says.

Two ducks fly over the swathes of buttercups in the yellow meadow off Moor Lane.

“Are burglars poor?” the young son asks his dad.
“That depends on how successful a burglar they are,” his dad replies.

A pair of crows fly over the Ferrari, the rhododendrons, the brace of Range Rovers. They land on the ridge tiles of Wisteria Cottage with its gravel, its vintage boot jack, the stone pixies climbing over its gate, and its wisteria.

The view, like the cars and the houses around here, is massive.

There’s an angry bee trapped under the plastic envelope housing the planning notice that’s stuck to the lamp post next to the Toyota Previa with the long, deliberate looking scrape down its side.

The man from Sunny View has come outside, hood drawstring tight. He tells me to get myself out of the rain.

The little ginger dog turd left next to the imprint of a dog’s paw in the cement around the drain cover looks like a memorial tribute.

The old lady with the piles of books and the oxygen tank has died.

The couple who are always arguing with the windows open are arguing with the windows open.

“Nice one, mate. See you later, bud,” says the young man through a haze of weed smoke from the passenger seat of the little Suzuki Ignis with the Ferrari air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror and the Wolfrace alloys.

Later, the sun dries the rain and brings out the man who hoovers his pattern imprinted concrete driveway. Then there’s the man in the shorts and the rugby shirt who calls his Jack Russell terrier a knobhead and a tit.

The man in his 70s with the opaque reactolites and the black labrador stops to talk to the other man in his 70s with opaque reactolites and black labrador. They compare experiences of electrocardiography.

The roofers’ expletive ridden conversation is easily loud enough to be heard from the bus stop where the woman with the Sainsbury’s bag-for-life raises an outraged eyebrow.

What I thought was a bee in the pocket of my shirt was just a piece of tree litter.

The estate agent in the tailored grey waistcoat, jeans, light tan brogues and sunglasses climbs out of his black Audi S4. He grabs the large, strappy digital SLR from the passenger seat, takes a couple of snaps of the end-terrace with the pretend wooden front door and drives away again.

Back in town, I get off the bus and the Asian man who is wearing salwar kameez and holding a toilet seat is having a stand up row about parking spaces with a fat, bald white man with no shirt on and ketchup around his mouth.