suburbia 3/

It’s May. We’re still easing out of our third lockdown. Emerging from our houses, and into the sun, like leaves emerging from buds on trees. Spring has fully sprung. But the icy wind still lurks around corners, and ruins my mood some days. Some afternoons are unexpectedly warm though. And then I turn my face to the sun. We flip between coat and light jacket weather. And our walks are newly green after months of grey on grey.

Some random observations as I walk around the neighbourhood with my photographer’s eye.

//

I step out of the post office, and into the high street come alive again. Doors to shops stand open, to invite people and noise from the street in. Polish pop music is blaring loudly from the van idling in traffic. I decide to walk around the block before heading back home, and I slip through the alley. Three guys in grey tracksuits (a uniform of sorts) approach from the other end and I have to stand and wait to let them pass. One is on the phone: “I’m in the alley right now….no, our alley. I’m almost there.” His friend has a camera slung over his shoulder, nicer then any I own.

 //

As I walk into the supermarket, our postie is walking out. Think of our old one. It is a game of dodgems inside the supermarket. “Milk”, I remind myself. A guy pulls a paper list from his pocket. I add to my own in my head. I look for rice paper, up and down crowded aisles for long minutes but never find it. 

//

An abandoned canvas bag with bits of rubble sticking out of it lies on the side of the pavement. Like a mystery mini skip with handles. I pause and take a visual inventory. It bleeds sadness somehow. I walk away feeling dusty.

//

As I turn onto the footbridge, I see a guy sitting cross-legged, hoodie up, holding a small glass doorway to outer space between his thumb and forefinger. Ready to enter the weekend on a high. He’s a regular in that spot. It is 11.45am on a Friday. Discarded face masks snagged in brambles, hang like paper cradles in the wind. Huge white clouds climb upwards, like powdery wigs of French nobles. A screensaver blue sky beyond. A perfect spring day.

//

Hindi music drifts from my neighbour’s window, as I walk up to the our common door. One of the kids screams “11,300 years” behind the net curtain. Their dad comes up behind me on the path , wearing his standard red baseball cap. We say “hi”.

//

A woman makes a fuss in the charity shop about her purchase which she says she “might need to return”. Everyone thinks the same thing. The guy on the register doesn’t hide his annoyance. A small soap opera unfolds. I browse through the vinyl records, pretending not to listen. Another woman comes in carrying a woven basket, oblivious to the drama. She asks if we’re allowed to park on the road outside. “No”, from every corner of the shop. She makes a hurried exit and I see her running as fast as her pencil skirt allows to a ticket already in progress. The traffic warden is like scooter-riding ninja waiting to pounce. I don’t like him.

//

At the house next to the nursery home, some shirtless guys are drinking beers in the garden, blasting shitty dance music. The envy from the next door is real, I am sure.

//

I continue on towards town. A guy in a green shirt in an upstairs window pulls on a red jacket. Delivery drivers huddle outside restaurants three by three, never bothering to remove their helmets. The Chinese restaurant is setting up tables outside under huge umbrellas. The sun is blinding.

//

In town, a greasy looking guy in aviator glasses is having a very serious conversation on his phone with someone. I’m curious about the dramatic advice he is shouting at them through the phone, talking about Rome and gladiators and their faith being tested. He’s pacing back and forth and waving his arms. Eventually I spot a street preacher behind him, and start laughing at the illusion, thinking I was hearing the guy on the phone instead of the preacher. Further along, a long line of people are waiting to enter the temple of fast fashion.

//

A couple laden with grocery bags are walking ahead of me. They stop where someone has kicked one of the spokes of some railings out of place, making it a trip hazard. The man hands his wife his bags and bends the spoke back into place. A small good citizen act which takes all of 5 seconds. This moves me. I wish I could bag that feeling.

//

The door to #48 at the entrance to the alley is slightly ajar. As I walk down the alley, a kid kicks a ball against the fence alongside it, which makes me jump a bit. Moments later, the kid multiplied by three is running up the alley behind me with his brothers. I emerge on the other end, relieved. I step aside to let them through along with their apparently long-suffering mother. Two run ahead to the park. One stays behind, trying to wrangle a baby pram away from the mom. My stomach drops when he actually knocks the pram over. It’s empty. I stand under a tree and look the other way for a bit.

//

In the park proper, I’m in awe of how rapidly spring has progressed since my last visit. I crouch down in a bed of bluebells. I watch squirrels skirt along a tree branch fallen across the stream. I run my fingers along the edges of huge green horse chestnuts leaves. I love watch the sun shine through them from above. Glowing green. I brush up against nettles accidently and feel my ankles burn as I drag my arms through the small white flowers of cow parsley. I can hear sirens in the distance. But also birds, announcing a new season in suburbia.

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