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.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

I left at 6am

I left at 6am, the low sun glinting off silver seams of slug trail. 
At the junction where the double yellow lines divert around the big sycamore, Jackson Pollock bird shit covered the road and part of the abandoned push chair.

A funfair has set up in the park, behind the row of holly bushes like massive green Dolly Mixture jellies. I walked past, behind two other men in high-vis vests: 
“Do you know that guy up Deighton with one arm?”
“Aye, that’s him, Stumpy…”

In town, I passed a noisy lock-in at the bar under the railway arches: “Setting the new standard of late night drinking culture…”

Later, I drove out to the country, where nightclub moguls build the most ostentatious houses as high up the panoramic ridge as possible. They compete for the stripiest lawns, the most absurd double/triple life-size buddhas, the most bloated shiny black 4x4’s, the most unorthodox use of decorative gravels and spars etc.

Mr Briggs pulled up in an old Toyota Yaris: 
“I’ve just taxed this, £60. Just insured it, £250.”
That's all. Then he went.

In the village, this years flying ant sex orgy was underway and the builders were listening to 80s heavy metal on a paint spattered radio.

Back in town, a man with a chin-strap beard popped up from behind the fence of residential care home:
“Hello, mate. Do you know me?” he asked.
“No” I said.
“Well, this is a residential home and I’m Wayne. I’m a bit autistic; I’m always thinking people are going to knife me. That’s no way to carry on, is it?”
“No” I said. I didn’t know what else to say so I said, “You should be all right at the moment, there’s nobody around” and I set off walking again.
Wayne shouted after me, “But I look all right though, don’t I?”
I shouted back, “Yeah, yes, you look fine.”

Saturday, 18 April 2015

It’s one of those dry, still days.

It’s one of those dry, still: petrol, cigarette smoke, lawnmowers, paper litter—not mulch, traffic noises from a quarter-mile away, daisies and dandelions and daffodils, a peacock butterfly on white UPVC…

Out on the estate that hasn’t changed for forty years, the old couple are having a small tiff about which bag to put “all those jam jars in” while a sparrowhawk disembowels a small rodent on the ridge of their dormer bungalow.

Rockeries; cracked-flag driveways; scuffed casey footballs; bikes on their sides; tiny weed-bound ponds; bird feeders; overweight builders with broad accents; 8’x8’ lawns; cotoneaster; hebe; laylandii; a willow or a silver birch in the corner—planted by the developer in the 70s; low, double-skinned, fake-sandstone walls infilled with soil and alpines; brutal, brutal pruning; and a David Brown tractor spreading muck on the field behind.

There are lots of larger women in their 50s and and 60s with those grey bobs that are a bit too long to be bobs; reactolite glasses; floral shirts—sometimes open with a pastel vest-top underneath; knee-length shorts—also in pastel; cross-legged cellulite, sipping gin & slim outside the pub waiting for “probably the best fish supper in town”. 

The chickens in the field full of mangold wurzels are excited, they sound as though they are singing Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance. I heard some lapwings and saw a pair of buzzards, and I’m not sure but I think the near naked man walking the Border terrier started singing at the top of his voice because I didn’t look at him.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

At the Back of the Bus:

At the Back of the Bus.

Woman in three-quarter length quilted anorak: You should have seen us roller skating the other night!
Other woman in three-quarter length quilted anorak: You weren’t kaylied as you were going round, were you? 
Woman in three-quarter length quilted anorak: Aye, the drunker we got, the braver we got.

Super sharp, crisp shadows; blue sky; a starting of blossom with the shreds of newspaper in the trees; a weathered, grey wooden fence with the greenest cotoneaster leaking through the cracks; the second bullfinch in a week on Newsome Road South; rotten gates that fall apart in your hand; a moulded ‘stone’ tortoise with a solar panel shell and a night-light face; massive cars parked too close together; a woven-willow reindeer that's still kicking around from Christmas…

Mr Briggs pulled over in his Suzuki Carry, he took his pipe out of his mouth and pinned it between the ball of his thumb and the steering wheel while he leant across and shouted to me through the window: 
“I’m off to t’bins; I’ve got a load of bloody rubbish in!”
That’s all. Then he went.

I saw Mr Booth outside the newsagent’s. He told me again about the time he went to see The Rolling Stones in 1980:
“Mick Jagger was from me to where that Renault’s parked away... Margaret was on my shoulders... The car broke down on the way home...”

Friday, 27 March 2015

On the estate where people in bath robes often shout loudly at barking dogs

On the estate where people in bath robes often shout loudly at barking dogs above the noise of high-energy auto-tuned pop, they were shouting particularly loudly today. The wind whistled through the streets, slamming knackered garden gates, flapping and cracking at the polythene in the broken trees, and inducing that weird clanging sound from the inside of metal street lamps.  A man of about sixty years old, in a tracksuit and an old Suzuki Swift pulled over to ask me whether I knew where he’d been born. I said I didn’t.
“Sorry… I mean… the thing is, my wife asked me where I was born the other day and I realised I don’t know. My mum’s dead, so I can’t ask her. I sent off for my birth certificate and it says Storths Road but I don’t know where that is."

Later on, I heard a woodpecker — in the tree above the owl that’s made of hundreds of tiny shells.

The elderly man in the stained anorak was sitting on an upturned bucket to paint his garden fence. He told me he used to work for the GPO, 
“…on the engineering side, like. I’ve got a good pension — it’s seen me right! I’ve been retired for twenty-eight years. I bet it’s not like that anymore though, is it? I couldn’t believe it when they privatised the Royal Mail — nobody wanted it! It was all just to line the pockets of the big boys. Greedy buggers.”
He dipped his brush into the paint,
“It’s water based, this.” he pointed out.
I commented on the unpredictable weather we’ve been having.
“Aye, but isn’t it grand working outside. I love it. I always have. I think it’s why I’m so fit… apart from me knees… and me back. I’ve always worked outside. It can be the worst job in the world but as long as you’re outside and you’ve got some good work-mates it doesn’t matter.
I agreed with him, and told him about my back and knee problems. He sympathised and then parked his brush. 
“I’m going to call it a do for today,” he said, groping for a dry bit of fence to pull himself upright. “I’ve enjoyed our chat. It makes the world go round, doesn’t it? Talking to folk? But there’re some right miseries around these days, aren’t there? My bus driver says he hates his job because everybody’s so miserable now.”

Three doors down, a tall man in a black anorak and sandals was looking directly ahead and holding his hands behind his back as he paced slowly round and round the perimeter of the small concreted-over garden of his terraced house.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Sunlight streams through gaps in the clouds, dramatically spotlighting both the Arqiva Tower and Mr Hussain’s plastic lawn.

Sunlight streams through gaps in the clouds, dramatically spotlighting both the Arqiva Tower and Mr Hussain’s plastic lawn. The past few weeks have seen Mr Hussain’s fake lawn divided into a series of rectangular strips by the long mohicans of real lawn that have breached its seams.

Next door, a big, gold, two-litre Mercedes is blocking the pavement. I walk around it while the jackdaws squabble noisily on a chimney pot overhead. There are four stone urns in a neat row below the big picture window. Three of them house a corresponding stone sphere, the fourth contains a weathered, regulation size Mitre football.

Further up the valley, the houses on this estate haven’t changed much since they were built in the early 1970s; a series of brick semis with postage-stamp lawns bordered with daffs and primulas. The cul-de-sac is lined all the way to the turning circle with regularly spaced identical ‘feature’ bay windows, glazed with stick-on-lead leaded lights. The wooden, approximately Doric architraves are rotting now and several have been replaced with moulded UPVC — as have many of the windows and doors — but all the brass reproduction Victorian stage-coach lamps have been retained. There’s evidence of the original concrete road surface through scars in the asphalt too. 
Audi, Audi, Ford Mondeo, Mercedes, Kia, Land Rover and, on the five-bar gated driveway at the bottom, underneath the leylandii that has been precision topiaried to accommodate it, a pristine, twelve year old Rover 75 Tourer in metallic red.

There’s nobody on the streets around here except for old women at bus stops and the occasional commercial dog walker. A Toyota Yaris goes past leaving a trail of weed smoke in its wake.

Friday, 13 March 2015

A shoal of jackdaws swell overhead...

A shoal of jackdaws swells overhead as the line of geese that are scouring the field off Hall Lane edge forward in unison like policemen in overalls conducting a fingertip search.

Ten years ago, the pair of plastic ornamental bay trees either side of the door were quite an authentic ‘bay’ green but now they have faded and bleached to a kind of washed-out ‘toothpaste' turquoise. In the garden, Mr Walker is making the most of the spring weather and is carrying out some maintenance. He has balanced the frost-severed head of the stone tortoise on top of a statuette of a baby rabbit. The head has thereby been raised to a height and angle that has allowed Mr Walker to realign it with its headless body and create the illusion that the tortoise is still whole. I can hardly see the join, and the result is a touching tableau in which the tortoise appears to be glancing over the baby rabbit’s back to keep an experienced eye out for predators.

The temperature is into double figures, shag pile moss covers the top-stones, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and the man in the heavy duffle coat with the hood up wants to know what the hell it is I think I’m doing.

“Come in! Come in!” shouts the old man at the manor house on the moor as I approach the door, “I hear you’ve grown a beard!” he says, mistaking me for somebody else.

Anyway, a woman in a little hat with netty bits on has just waved to me from a passing Rolls Royce.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Things are slowly drying out in the first real sun of the year.

Things are slowly drying out in the first real sun of the year. Snowdrops and crocuses are appearing on the verges. The big woman in a dirty pink onesie on the bench at the side of the main road inhales from her cigarette with her eyes closed. She adjusts her posture, unfurling like an enormous pink, fleecey rose, stretching out her arms across the back rest. She tilts her head back to absorb the warmth of the sun on her face and exhales a long thin wisp of white smoke vertically up and over Lockwood Taxis.
Across the road, an old man in synthetic fibres rustles past the upturned pushchair. The sun has yet to coax him out from his tightly secured drawstring hood, despite its low glare turning his Reactolite lenses black, opaque. His vision must be impaired because he almost bumps into the woman in the grey hooded top, black tracksuit pants and enormous pink fluffy slippers as she comes out of the off-licence.

The estate is a spiky forest of broken saplings, TV aerials, and satellite dishes where the last few puddles reflect lowered hatchbacks and the dogs bark all day long. Somebody has drawn a half-arsed cock-and-balls motif in biro on the postman’s pouch box.
Half a dozen scruffy men on pit-bikes systematically doorstep the residents:
“Alright, love? Just wondering if you have owt for scrap? Okay love… Sorry darling… Right love…”
A knackered white Transit follows in their wake, pausing outside the house with the bright blue plastic hanging baskets either side of the moulded Ionic columns in filthy, chipped UPVC. One of the pit-bike men has discovered an old car tyre on the drive. He opens the Transit’s back doors and chucks it in.

Out on Hangingstone Road, a couple of workmen appear to be dismantling the CCTV gantry that sometimes gets mail addressed to it.* A long crocodile of primary school children march by. One of the teachers is standing with her feet either side of a large pile of dog shit on the pavement and is physically guiding the two-by-two children around it:
“No, Thomas. I am not standing in it, I am standing next to it! 

*On two separate occasions I have come across mail addressed to: The CCTV Camera, Hangingstone Road, Huddersfield.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Snow on the Tops was Striped with Icy 4x4 Tracks.

The snow on the tops was striped with icy 4x4 tracks. It was laid thick and muffled both the early wood-pigeon call and the shouts from the high school football match; hi-vis vests and a hi-vis ball.

The man with the dewdrop on his nose was polishing his Jaguar XJ. He lives in a park-home on the moor. He has one of those old ‘ding-dong’ door bells (black plastic box with a solid, reliable button that looks like a sun-bleached Trebor Refresher) that are more usually found on the big houses, like those with the heated driveways further down the valley. The man told me his neighbours have fallen out with him.
“They’re jealous since I got the Jag'”, he said, “Them over your left shoulder… Don’t look!” he said, not taking his eyes off mine, “They’ll know we’re talking about them. They complain every time I step out of the house. And them over my left shoulder, they rang the council because I took my dog out without a lead!” 
I glanced down at the floor and kicked a chipping of the decorative spar back behind the concrete rope-edging in an attempt to look nonchalant in front of the neighbours, and he continued, 
“I don’t know why we can’t all just get on, I bet we sound like a load of school kids don’t we? But we’re all pensioners!”

Later, In the garden of the man who hadn’t put his teeth in yet, I saw a ring-necked parakeet in the cherry tree. 
In the garden opposite, a large and rowdy flock of black-headed gulls was squabbling over something on the lawn. The man without his teeth said they’d frightened him when he’d first come outside, 
“It’s like that Alfred Hitchcock film.” he said, “You know the one I mean?”
“The Birds?” I said
“Aye, that’s the one. Let’s just hope Michael’s not lying dead behind that hedge.”