The rest of the country has snow, apparently, and we have drizzle. I consoled myself by thinking that, by 10am, everything elsewhere was slushy and grey.
I took the children up to the Ponds, and back home again. It’s not the most exciting walk: straight and tree-lined. On the way back I passed a family with the dad telling a young girl: “steam trains used to come up here.”
Overheard: a youngish woman walking down Bedminster Parade, phone in hand:
“I think I’m in Bedminster, Mum, but I don’t know where Bedminster is…”
Chap walking down Stokes Croft, chatting away on the phone:
“Are you imagining me inside a giant shoe?”
Overheard in a group of smokers outside a pub, as we entered it:
Woman: … I was shagging my dad’s best mate …
Overheard on Baldwin St. Two men, one pulling a suitcase behind him, walking behind me. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, until one said:
“… hopefully no one will realise I don’t have my trousers”
Walking down Clare Street yesterday. Behind me was a couple, late-twentysomething at a rough guess, the woman carrying a big, quite expensive clothes-store carrier bag.
Him: How are you enjoying our date?
Her, surprised: This is a date?
Overheard in the street this afternoon: a woman’s voice.
“I’m fed up of you telling people I’m a druggie. I’m not a druggie. I didn’t have any methadone yesterday. That’s why I’m feeling sick today.”
Overheard in the street:* a parent (or guardian) and child:
Child: I’ve got a headache.
Parent: You don’t have a headache. You’re seven. You can only get headaches when you’re older.
Local news time: a teenager was murdered last week, just by the doorstep of Great Great Aunt Mabel’s house. Great Great Aunt Mabel didn’t have anything to do with it, though, as she died in 1983. Nevertheless, I’ve never been allowed to forget, by The Mother, every time we pass, who lived there. “That was your Nanna’s Auntie Mabel’s house, next to the bookmakers’”. My own memory of the house is at once faint and vivid: sneaking into the scullery to play with the coal in the coal-scuttle. Auntie Mabel was the last householder in the family still to use coal for heating, back in the heyday of post-punk and Scargill. She moved into a sheltered home a couple of years before she died; in my memory, the glass in the front doors of the home was always being smashed by vandals. She died cleaning; found on her hands and knees by her bed, still holding her dustpan and brush.
* Post House Wynd, Darlington, in case you were wondering
People kept coming in and alerting the staff, taking one aside for a quiet talk. Not quiet enough not to be overheard, though. “Can’t you call the police or something? Can’t you call 999? She’s obviously disturbed.”
We were in Starbucks on the corner of Jameson St; it has a large outdoor area spreading out into the wide, pedestrian street. Given the April weather, it was empty, aside from one woman with her back to the shop. An empty coffee cup was on the table in front of her, but she never made to lift or touch it. She was slumped forwards, her head hooded and curly dark hair hiding her face. Every so often her shoulders would shake, as if in mighty sobs.
After the third or fourth person came into the cafe, one of the waitresses went outside to talk to her. She bent down to chat to the woman, and I assume the woman replied. Before long, the waitress returned inside.
We left the cafe not long later, and the woman was still there, shaking slightly. I turned as we left, to see her face, but whatever angle as we passed her face was hidden behind her unruly hair. I wondered how long she would be there for, and who, if anyone, would come to scoop her up.
As we got back home at half-three in the morning, I noticed a man sitting on the other side of the street, sitting on a front-yard wall. I’m always wary of people loitering in the small hours. We got out of the car, and I could hear him mumbling, his hand to his head. I assume he was talking on the phone. I couldn’t make much of it out.
“Yeah, I’m just off Sunk Island Road somewhere. Yeah.”
Which he wasn’t. In fact, he was nowhere near Sunk Island Road. He was on Iambic Ave, which is off Pentameter Road West, which is on entirely the wrong side of the city. Here’s a map. It’s not a very good map, but it’s a map nevertheless:
Pentameter Rd. W. —— Pentameter Rd. —— city centre —— Sunk Is. Rd.
< ———————— a long long long long way —————————————->
Flash forward. Twelve hours later. We’d been out again, and we’d come back again. And as I was parking the car, I noticed a man sitting on the other side of the street, sitting on a front-yard wall.
I looked at him.
I wasn’t sure it was the same man. Similar clothes. It had been too dark to get a look at him.
Just as we were getting the shopping out of the boot, up pulled two police cars, one with its rear side window missing. No glass there; the space was filled with a metal grille. They stopped alongside the man sitting asleep on the wall. I watched the coppers approach him, one holding his handcuffs out of sight behind his back. As one of them checked all the rubbish bins in the yard, the others scooped him up and walked him into the waiting car. Bundled away, as if he was never there.