I read the strapline emblazoned across the Lidl lorry as it slowly curved its way around the roundabout, passing the station towards the retail park. We’re committed to keeping the highest of standards……yours, it read. With that pause of dots to create maximum effect as its meaning sinks in. It was a big truck. I thought of it and all the others that thunder up and down the mountainous roads to bring stuff to us here. And through the night, as this one had done. It’s all bumf, of course. (I had no idea that bumf was spelt that way, I always thought it was bumph, until it came up as a crossword answer.) Advertising twaddle. And yet, it is somehow comforting to read in the dark, wind and rain. Someone cares. Someone cares about what I think. The advertising industry sells comfort, safety, havens. It is not real. Nothing is. There is no planet, the voice said. I know. But then what is? What is real? Such are the conversations going on in my head as I walk. Today, of course, I was writing as I always do when I’m mid piece. Not yet solved, they niggle away at me, pushing for, urging towards a resolution.
I saw the milkman again in his truck. I thought about its shape. From the back it looks like a de-curtained four-poster bed on wheels. It rattled with bottle crates. He’s a little man, rather like a younger version of Bruce Springsteen. We used to see him in Morrison’s on a Saturday morning with a loaded trolley, sometimes with a couple of children. Does he like his job? Does he like being up early in the morning? There can’t be that many domestic deliveries these days. (Another crossword clue – Pinta deliverer? Long gone, these days. That sound, a clinking of bottles jangling, the peak cap, the jaunty air, or is that a TV perpetuated myth?) Sometimes I’ve seen another milkman delivering on North Road to the sheltered housing flats. That makes sense. Nice to wake up and it’s there on your door step, with the paper. A perpetual circle, a marking of time. Reliable. Safe. Known. So where does he deliver to, Bruce the milkman? The cafes in town, I suppose. All very jovial. They get their pitches, no doubt. I like the hub at that time, 7.00 am when they all open, well not all. I like being part of the work-a-day ritual. Shall we go today? Not today, work to do, soon. Just getting warmed up. Ready.
I borrowed his coat again. It was raining. It wasn’t a pitter patter on my umbrella, what was it? More like sand, grains being poured onto it. I stood still and listened. At the top of the little hill, from the top of which I can see the town stretched before me. It looks down onto Llanbadarn Road, the flats where we used to live, and the little blue door-ed house with the circular window. I know it’s inhabitants from work. A gentle couple, very Welsh, he would say. The house is much loved, cared for, even though it is flanked by student houses. I imagine their happiness in there. He with his tightly curled red hair, and her with that very singular way she has of blinking behind her glasses when she speaks. I see him sometime with their children, riding their bikes on the pavement. Is there two or three. I bumped into her once in Ruthin, at Rhug’s Bison café (rather off-putting that smell of charcoaled meat when you just want a cup of tea). She smiled and said hello, what are you doing here? I didn’t recognise her at first, it took a while, out of context you see. And I don’t expect to be known in Wales, not ever. Hardly ever. I got it eventually, and was touched. Her name is nearly the same as mine, but with an ‘i’ not an ‘e’.
Why do I get so scared of writing? Everyone does, he says, it’s because you want it to go well. And I do, but mostly I want to get it right, for me. That’s it. Right. And I will. And the restricted word count is good. It is rigorous. Sharp. Perfection is when there is nothing left to take out. Amen to that.