Wasps (5)

He talked at me the whole time she was in the studio. Was he nervous? Possibly. Or just passionate about his work? Hobby turned work. Vernacular furniture his business card said. Welsh vernacular furniture. I was seduced. Seduced by his enthusiasm. I kept picturing the chairs, a dark rich patina, smoothed by use. She, shyer, more hesitant, red-lipsticked. I’m not chasing the money, he said. We have enough. Enough.

I walked home afterwards. He had the car. It was having two tyres changed. A lovely walk down Penglais Hill. Fast walking. Then cut through below the National Library and down the steps passed the Nurses’ Home. Steep, steep hill then down into St David’s Road. I saw chaffinches and gold finches bobbing and darting through the hedges.

A host of birds sing to me at night. My night. Not your night. In bed by 7.30 sometimes 8. It is still light and they sing. Chiff chaff. The sound echoes across the empty land beneath my window. Land that is a building site but surrounded by trees. It is left to its own devices. Up for sale, he tells me. Meanwhile, the birds have it. I fall asleep to their song, happily.

He was there at his window when I got home. Have you had lunch? I asked. In the middle of it, he said, lighting up a cigarette, lamb stew followed by rhubarb pie. The smell, sweet and heavy, filled our hallway. I opened a window wide.

More Diski and her thoughts on smoking. Mum smoked all through her pregnancies. Didn’t do you any harm, she’d say. My sister took up smoking briefly when she died, menthol ones just like her. It gives you something to do. Always, Diski wrote. Most of my lovers have been smokers, and yet, now, I cannot bear the smell. Suffocating the air. I grow less tolerant. Is it just age?

Do you remember the wasps? she asked me. We were talking about the last time we were all together before he died. I do. They were all over your face, she said. I don’t know how you could stand it. I remember. I remember making myself still. I remember the peace of it, the peace in between the fear. And my sister blowing them away.

I want to write about it. I think about it. How to say it. How to tell the story of it, as I walk. It will come. Now, I must go, again. Out into the milky grey.

Soon.

Dreams

The artist Simon Lewty makes art from his dreams. He writes them out in beautiful copperplate script. Gorgeous lines of ink. The writing out of them makes them memorable, encourages, stimulates a memory that would not have been, perhaps. My dreams over the last few days have been so lucid. Is it because I have started writing again? Both my parents have featured. We have spoken normally, always knocking me for six when I wake up and the realisation of their death hits home. Yesterday afternoon I dreamt of being with my father. We were abroad, in Italy, the light was right but the B&B was different, too twee, too frou-frou to be Italian. He needed to buy a ticket and the office, part of a coach firm called Fares was outside of the city. I remember walking upstairs in the B&B and watching the light coming in from a skylight. A hot, yellow light. And I thought with pleasure of my walk in the morning. I found him outside the ticket office sitting in the sun on the ground. I’d asked him the time and looked at my watch at the same time. Seven o’clock, he said. I looked at my watch and the hands were spinning wildly, madly backwards. The dream last night was of me needing to buy perfume and of being in a huge department store, the size of Harrods. I was accompanied by a lover (an amalgam of past and present loves) whom I lost. I unrolled a felt container full of phials and bottles of perfume, smelling  each one. I can recall the odours of them. And then, all of sudden I didn’t have perfume but jewellery, with two rings on my fingers. They were wrong. The hands were wrong, the rings way too ornate for my taste.

Often in dreams I have looked in mirrors and not seen my face but that of a stranger’s. The ancient Greeks thought that dreams were visitations from the Gods. For me they seem to be a working through the concerns of the day. I can see all the connections. And yet, the complexity of the narrative is fascinating.

I’ve begun writing again. It is turgid, gloopy stuff. I need to get back into my stride. I talk it through with him. He is patient, happy to listen and offer up encouragement. Talking stops it festering. Festering that fear of not being good enough, of being foolish for trying. But surely if one writes everyday, keeps going, something worthy will come through.

I go to bed in the light and rise in the dark. Topsy-turvy. I could hear children’s voices in play last night as I lay in bed. The light on the tree was golden. The sky was azure. This morning is cold, nipping at fingers. My puffa gilet under my coat for extra layers. The town has emptied since the weekend. Day-trippers and holidaymakers for now subsided. He is happy. He hates such an invasion of his home-town. Work soon. I shall do what I can before. Drip, drip.

She came through the door heavy with grief. Grey around the eyes. Her country lost. A dictatorship. It is a dictatorship, she said. What could I say? What can I say? We spoke in clichés, I offered up hope, vague but sincere. She took it briefly. All I can do is write about it, she said. Yes, I said, write it out.

Spooning

They were standing outside one of the student houses along Llanbadarn Road, snogging. I’ve never really liked the word, but it is appropriate I suppose. Kissing strangers. Snogging. They used to call it spooning. What was that line in Joni Mitchell’s song Edith and the Kingpin? He lifts their faces to the spoon. Or he takes their faces to the spoon? About cocaine, possibly. Spooning. Ted tries to describe spooning to the boy in L P Hartley’s The Go Between. He gets flustered, saying that the horses have been doing a bit of spooning. It sounds rude but also evocative. Snogging sounds immature, fumbling. I remember it. Just like those two. There was warmth, an encountering of warm strangeness. I remember being liquefied, turned molten. My body, older now, is slower to react, more hesitant, wary.

The noise was a shock. After the silence. They spilled out of the club onto the pavements, the road. Seemed like hundreds, shouting, some lurching, all in various states of undress. No coats. The Angel, Pier Pressure and the Why Not were all open. Not students, these were young and rowdy. Some leant against walls, others were on mobile phones calling taxis. I expected an Easter lull. A hushed reverence. The harbour was quiet, except for wind and rush of waves.

By the castle a dog was barking. I thought it was in a car. Some people had perched themselves in the castle turret. 1987 one was shouting. I couldn’t catch the rest. Then he spat, missing me.

Sleepy. Killing time till work. So much I want to be doing.

Elephant

So you work for the BBC, says the woman over the phone. Can I ask? she says. Are you an undercover reporter?

I watch her from my window. She is one of three. The youngest. She is lumpen, where the other two are slim and lean. They ride around their drive on bikes. She is always bringing up the rear, not riding as such but propelling her bike along with her feet. She wears heavy-rimmed glasses. I’d heard her mother calling her by her pet name. Elephant. Elephant, she called. Elephant.

Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk and said goodbye to the Circus, they used to sing at me. Nellie. At primary school. Nellie the Elephant, they’d say. Trunk, trunk, trunk.

Ice Cream

Dad, are we going to have an ice cream NOW?

I am sitting in on our seat in the wall facing the sea with my eyes shut listening to him. It’s a little boy, his hand in his father’s, bleating, begging, cajoling as he skips his way along the prom. The sun is warm, glorious. There are too many cars, engines hot, insistent, impatient.

At last, sand.

Another child’s voice. This time an Asian boy. He has just got out of his mother’s Mercedes and has rushed to the railing. Look, Mum, he says, sand.

I am tense, again. Rigid with fearfulness for I have begun writing my memoir again. An uncomfortable process this beginning again, like drawing, you know what you are capable of doing but you have to go through such clumsiness to get there.

I’ve finished Jenny Diski’s book with Afterwords by her partner and daughter. Sadness.

On Sunday listening to Poetry Extra on 4 Extra. They talk of the poet Edward Thomas as having no confidence, that is until he became a poet. Robert Frost told him to. They read his poem Adlestrop over and over again. It is effective, doing that. That layer upon layer of repetition.

The sun is coming. I need some coffee after an early shift at work. A hirsute man coming in to the studio to talk about drilling holes in glaciers at the base of Everest. A taciturn man. Black coffee, please, make it short. No coat.

Earlier I disturbed a seagull pecking at a black dustbin bag of rubbish. It was tearing, ripping the plastic, its wing hanging down on the ground, a little distrait in its fury. As I walked past, it jerked up, taking flight, cross.

A busy day. No chance of writing, of solving the puzzle of what I began yesterday. Heigh ho.

Knit ‘n Natter

They’re vermin basically, she said looking out of the window at the two pheasants in the garden. One of them was limping, hobbling about, one wing lowered, while the majesty of his plumage shone.

We’d gone away. Just for one night. A long trip. Six hours in the car with two or so spent in Motorway Services drinking coffee and doing crosswords. I like our trips. I like being on the move. Giving myself over to the journey.

It’s a lovely village. The air smells of cow dung. Not unpleasant, it is a rich, peaty, sweet smell. We walked to his grave. The narcissi they’d planted were just beginning to flower. The ground around his stone was soft, mossy. A downy green. In the morning when I walked, an hour before dawn, the dark was punctured by the cranky croak of pheasants. I tried to walk without a torch, wanting the dark to subsume me. There was no silence. Trees creaked, small bodies rustled amongst the leaves, wood pigeons cooed and fluttered upwards through branches. In the distance, lorries thundered along the A59. Leaving early to miss the traffic we passed umpteen carcases of animals tossed and tumbled onto the hard shoulder. Dead foxes, pheasants and badgers. One badger was so big it looked like a large dog. It’s body was in tact, its fur unbloodied. I thought of Cynan Jones’s suggestion that some badgers are not killed by traffic but are thrown out of cars newly dead from badger-baiting. Such lumbering, yet vital creatures. They, and the foxes, are out of place, wrong on our motorways. Too fast, too crude for such mystical burials. Twice birds flew across our windscreen. Two near misses. In a far field I saw a deer, a muntjac, with its white flash of a tail.

Coming home the fretting re-starts.

She is safe in her new home. Sheltered housing. She is still young and laughs at it. Knit ‘n Natter in the communal lounge and free use of the launderette. That would do for you, he says, when I’m gone. Yes, I say. That would be fine.

The moon grows full. A beautiful walk this morning. No need for a torch. The waves lapped, gentle. It is good to be here. To be home.

Weasel

The Welsh thing really gets to him. There was a man at the doctor’s, he said, he was behind me in the queue and I gestured for him to go ahead of me. And he replied in Welsh. And I told him, in English, that I didn’t speak Welsh. Were you rude about it? I asked. No, he said, I was polite. And do you know what? What? He continued to speak to me in Welsh. They make it worse for themselves, he said. They get people’s backs up.

I don’t know how I feel about it. I listen to them in the studio, chattering away and if I’m happy to be separate, it is a nice, pleasant hum. I can tune out, willingly. But if I’m feeling low, or isolated the sounds are harsh. It was the same with Norwegian. Language can make one welcome or unwelcome. No, that’s not strictly true, language couldn’t care less, it is the users, the manipulators of the language that do that. I think of the Irishman, and the Breton girl, both happy to embrace Welsh. I am too affected by him over this. I try not to be, but I absorb his hurt. It makes him feel less Welsh in his hometown. Or at least that is what he believes. Fucking Welshies, he says. Fuck ’em.

The smell of bonfires was gorgeous yesterday morning. How to describe it? Smells are tricky and too often conjured up via hackneyed phrases. That smokiness. Dry, sharp, almost acrid, it catches in the throat. Get to close and your eyes smart. It is a grey-black smell. But hot.

3.45 am and a girl in shorts runs barefoot across the main road beyond the Prom to her car, her feet tiptoeing on the tarmac.

Three rock pipits twee-twee from the rocks by the Perygyl.  I cannot see them.

The sky is a mass of stars.

Walking back home along Llanbadarn Road an animal runs along the pavement, and crosses the road. In the semi-darkness it is hard to see what it is. Is it a cat? No, it’s too small and its back is arched upwards, a mound, a moving, skittering hillock. Is it a weasel, or a stoat? Surely not. They are countryside, not urban creatures, aren’t they? But there is a stink. A smell, not of cat, more like fox. A sharp, hot, bitter stink. The shadows swallow it up.

New work. Always new things to learn. Be with it.

Two hours of Diski. I read of her cancer treatment. Hard going. She doesn’t mince her words. I am sorry. She was spiky. And why not? It is authentic, that not wanting to be nice. Nice. Nice.

Sweet Peas

I saw them in the supermarket. Not as packets of seeds but as little plants, their twisty, frond-like stems already emerging. I longed for a garden then. Their scent intoxicates me. I remember two years on the trot when I managed to grow them by our kitchen door. Lovely. That burst of joy at their sweetness. I failed to grow them from seed in Cornwall. Nothing. No show. Could I plant them in a pot and put them on the flat roof outside? Would there be enough sun? I’d have them to cut. The more you cut the more they grow. But I lack the paraphernalia. Trowels, top soil, mulch. All that stuff that I hear them talk of on Gardener’s World. One of my fantasies is to be invited onto Desert Island Discs. And what will you do on that island all alone? Kirsty Young will ask me. I’ll learn how to garden.

Back in list mode. There is too much to mention. I have a little pile of post-it notes, lurid orange and green and torn sketchbook pages and even some scraps of newsprint, scribbled on during breakfast. It all backs up when we go away. Two away days last week. Mobberley then Hay. More of that later.

First. Chats in Morrisons. Our favourite till person. She warms to us. She talks now. It all came out. I can’t remember the question that prompted it. I’d joked about cross stitching being more exciting than going out to Rummers (our local wine bar, positioned somewhat bemusingly next to the town sewerage plant). No one at the moment? I’d  asked. Then we’d talked about surnames. For the moment it’s ____ she’d said – revealing a surname shared with a famous sixties actress who had had a fling with Prince Charles. Oh, do you intend to change it again? we’d asked. Not likely, she’d said, laughing. I’ve had three already. Three marriages. We found ourselves looking at her afresh. Well, well, we said. Then she listed the ways in which they left her.  Fifty ways. One had a kid and a girlfriend on the side, another went off to Denver, Colorado and the other, she’d spat, went off with a trollope. Well, well, we said. Well, well.

I have a head full. A head full of ideas. And yet, there is this domestic pull. Just like Mole in Wind in the Willows I want to spring clean. I want to wipe down skirting boards, clear out cupboards, wash windows, defrost the fridge, bag up old clothes, and make the flat smell like new.

At work I read Jenny Diski’s In Gratitude. A book about her cancer and her relationship with Doris Lessing, a surrogate-mother (sort-of) to her when in her teens. I am so absorbed that sometimes I cannot separate me from her and vice versa. In her foreword Anne Enright wrote about how ‘shifting between genres helps a ‘writer’ (and for this also read artist) dodge judgement, it also confounds some sense of authority…’ I raised this with him in the car as we drove to Cheshire. I do the same, I said. He didn’t agree. And yet, it had pinged in my head. A flash of recognition. Perhaps I am being too sponge-like again. Yet, I cannot help it. It is how I traverse this life, feeling intensely for others, being of the same skin. (A scribbled note accompanied this quote – order Diski’s other book, called something like ‘smoking in bed’ and read her past articles for The London Review of Books.)

Sometimes I don’t know what to write. It is too much. The experience beyond sense. Beyond understanding. We snapped at each other afterwards. Nasty words. Sharp tongues. I was sorry. He was sorry. It was me. It was all those feelings that I couldn’t make sense of. He is so changed. It is what, six months, nine months since we last visited? My sister had warned me of the loss of teeth (skin cancer does that apparently) but I thought he’d be the same mentally. He wasn’t.

Take the lift to the second floor and ring the bell. Numbers are punched and the door opens. We ask for him and she gestures to a figure at a table with two others. His head is tiny and his body, once huge, has shrunk. He has what looks like a white skull cap affixed to his pate. I touch him. Say his name. Nothing. No recognition. Eyes dead. He is humming, singing, making noises. He used to do this when telling stories. He’d used accents, booming them out. He thought he was good at it. Didn’t mind the attention. This is gibberish. This is nonsense. I sit across from him my hands on his knees, looking into his eyes. He stares back. His singing gets louder then stops. He calls me a nice lady. Is this your husband? In his hand he holds a spoon and half a piece of toast wrapped up in a napkin. He bangs it on the table. I tell him my name and he makes up a song with it. That’s not very nice, he says, do you want to marry me? He smells of decay. His teeth are rotting. There are gaps along the front. His clothes hang off him. There is a label with his name on his belt. We don’t stay long. I kiss him goodbye, hold his hand. He accepts the touching without questioning it. His neck smells of aftershave. He talked of the office, of having people who are looking after things for him. He cannot find the right words, but it calms him talking of it. That was his power, his sense of self. My name was unfamiliar to him. It was nothing. I am nothing.

A slow death, she called it. We’d sprung ourselves upon her. I needed the comfort of her. Her neatness, her smallness, her cosiness. Surrogate mothers, I seek them everywhere. You’ll have to take me as you find me, she’d said over the phone. Had I irritated her, coming unannounced? But then it was alright. She hugged us, made tea, brought slices of cake and we talked. Her house was a little chilly. The tea out of the best china was good. I needed that. I needed her. How was he? she asked. We told her. Ah, she said, it’s a slow death.

Then the next day sitting in a bookshop in front of camera, talking. The sun flooding in. The smell of books. Shoes-off in an armchair. Did I give her what she wanted? Not sure.

Walking my early morning walk with an umbrella. I liked the patter. I felt protected. Windless. Two students. I saw their shadows first – looming up across the castle wall. He wore a parka, a furry-lined hood over his head against the rain. They both carried plastic cartons of food. It’s kinda mad, she was saying as they passed me on the steps. Then by The Angel, a girl in patterned leggings standing outside Pizza Lush. Such perfect bodies. And another in a black silk shirt-dress, a coat held over her blonde hair. Her legs in skin-coloured tights. Moments of stillness as I walk by. Beauty. Time stops then continues. Voices. Snap-shots. Then I am home scribbling it down on paper before it is lost. And yet, it is lost, most of it. That heightened looking, that intensity is lost in the flatness of daylight. It is inevitable.

Off to make waffles now? I asked her as I dropped the studio line. Yes, she said, it’s a weekend tradition. She’d come in to talk about Trump. So soft, dulcet like a meringue.

Enough, now. I’ve paperwork to do and a fridge to defrost. Heigh-ho.

Fire

I write in my head as I walk. I don’t want to but it is compulsive. Jenny Diski claimed that writing was a means of escaping the nothingness. Yes, I concur. I do it for that. I name things, I make stories in my head, keeping up a continual descriptive chatter. For me it is about documenting, circumnavigating my presence as watcher, observer. Never, ever as participator.

I make mental lists, chanting them to myself as a make my way home before they are not lost. Shorthand scribblings, scratched on my brain. I am immersed in her writings, and even as I write this I am aware of a new self-consciousness. In her shadow. Nonsense she would probably have said. Be yourself. It is enough. Or perhaps she wouldn’t have. Being nice wasn’t her way it seems. And good for her. That, I cannot shake off. So to the lists, or the lurid green not-so-sticky post-it notes.

Our friend on the check-out at Morrisons talking about knitting. I’d asked what she did in her spare time. Knit. Knit jumpers. I like Aran patterns, she said. She’s knitting a seamless one at the moment. With summer coming, she said. A circular needle, I asked. No, she said, just long ones. It’s really heavy. I also crochet and cross stitch. There’s no man at the moment. No Friday nights at Rummers. I’m too hot-headed, she said.

It was always him that did it. Chat to people, that is. Strangers. I hated it then, I wanted anonymity, to keep myself to myself. I do it now. Why? Curiosity? I don’t know, the reasons are complicated. To make a connection, but one that is contained. No coming knocking on our front door. Absolutely not. But sharing the time of day at the checkout. Yes. That’s OK. Howya doing Reg? he asks a short, middle-aged man pushing an electric floor polisher. He turns of the machine and starts to tell him about how they have to carry all the garden produce out onto the front of the shop each morning and back in again at night. It takes two hours each time. It’s a fucking shit-house, says Reg, a fucking shit-house.

There was a union jack flying from the National Library the other day. I’ve never seen a British flag there before. It was at half-mast.

Bits of radio chat. A promo for a late-night programme on Six Live. Jarvis Cocker’s voice whispering about the liminal time between night and morning. The grey line, they call it, he whispers.

The TV on overhead at work. I don’t want to watch it. The voice of a relative of the American killed on Westminster Bridge. They bear no ill will, no grudges. There is no bitterness, he wouldn’t of wanted it, he was a very positive guy, the man, a neat, clean-looking man is saying. Killed by a car driving at 70 miles an hour along the pavement. The dead man’s wife is still in hospital. It was their anniversary. Gone. Over. Such forgiving is humbling.

I catch at things. A magpie. A wanting to understand. To know. All the while knowing I cannot. Words stay with me. A woman writing about dyeing textiles. Using natural dyes. A whole new vocabulary. A layer of meaning, previously unknown to me. Saddening. Saddening is iron in the dye that makes everything a moss-green colour. Saddening.

We’ve spent the weekend nights watching Amy. I expected it to fiction but it was a documentary. Compelling, compulsive – we stayed up long after bedtime. A fragile being for all her mouth. What a voice. Wasting away to a nothing. Poor love. Poor baby. The flash of the paparazzi’s cameras. No peace, no hiding place. Rest in peace. Do you have it now?

There are a row of earth movers down by the harbour, giant monsters that loom in the dark. Why are they there? Two of them stood poised over the entrance to the mouth of the Ystwyth this morning. Are they clearing the river bed?

Yesterday there was a man peeing in one of the Prom shelters. I heard the noise, so distinctive, a stream of liquid hitting concrete. He had his back to me but I could see his face through the little window as he turned to face me, mid-pee.

A girl in black tights and shorts trailing behind a young lad. In one hand she carries a Kentucky Fried Chicken carton, the other is held between her thighs. I’m going to wet myself, she is saying. She moans and wails. He is irritable, striding ahead. We’re almost there, it’s just around the corner. His place? Their first date? They both seemed cross, out of sorts.

On one of the unkempt front lawns of the student houses along Llanbadarn Road there is a sprinkling of primroses.

Walking along South Marine Terrace I hear a flapping. Paper. A line of A4 sheets taped, rather haphazardly, to the glass door and windows of a ground floor flat. I thought it was a warning of Wet Paint, but coming closer I saw that on each was written just one word. Different handwriting, different pens. The script was small, awkwardly penned. Clumsy. One word, in block capitals. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE.

 

Bonfires (5)

I love the smell. The smell of bonfires. The smell of the embers of bonfires on the beach. It’s the sunny weather, students stay up all night on the beach huddled around fires. There were two this morning, the smoke wafting softly across South Marine Terrace. I hear their voices, muted by cold. A rite of passage, I suppose. It’s a warm smell, smoky and rich.

I rush in writing this, I’ve work to do. As always, and too much admin. It sucks up my working time. But I feel better when it is done. An emptying process. I make lists, I fill post-it notes, in an endeavour to do the same, emptying myself, my head of minutiae. What am I emptying myself for? Space. Silence. Non-thinking, non-being? Nothingness. How glorious. Free of concern, free of burden, free of trying too hard to be good. Just being. Like cats, like birds, like trees. Precious unconcern.

He keeps coming into the coffee shop and disturbing his newspaper reading. The butcher. The green-van-owning butcher. He made him laugh yesterday. They were talking about the Welsh predilection for giving people nick names. The butcher told him about a friend of a friend who had gone to prison for murder. He’d shot his wife’s lover. However, he’d applied for a re-trial on the grounds that he’d not intended to pull the trigger but just frighten him by wielding the gun. He got off. And now he is known as Bryn Bang Bang. Others I can recall him telling me about are Dai Top Shop (he and his brother used to run a garage at the ‘top’ of town) and Dai Coat Hanger (his shoulders are permanently up close to his ears). As affectionate as Under Milkwood. Thick-voiced cosy.

My lovely, the courier called me yesterday. Young enough to be my son, I suspect. My lovely. Sign here, my lovely. Miss or Mrs. Ms.

She poured it all out yesterday on the phone. The first time she has mentioned her husband. Now ex. I strain to hear her. Her voice, dulcet is often muffled by wind and dog barks (she is often out walking when I call, and the neighbour’s dog, Bonnie goes with her). (Bonnie had a stroke a couple of weeks back. Her eyes went all funny, she told me. I ask how she is. She’s keeping going. She wants to live, she says.) I didn’t ask too many questions, I just let her talk. Her daughter won’t see him. I got frightened of him, she said. I felt such warmth towards her. She uses my name often. I like it. I feel connected to her. We talked of cremation, of taking flowers to her parents grave. Some daffodils.

Grahame Greene was kind, the writer said. The writer’s book has been serialised on Radio 4 extra, I’ve been listening to it before I walk in the mornings. Graham Greene as mentor, as lodger in his head. He followed in his wake, to Cuba, to America. Kindness. Greene used to send Muriel Spark money so that she could continue to write.

The fish lorry was down by the harbour this morning. No one was about. No fishing boats. The driver must have been asleep in the cab or cosied up in a B&B. There was no fridge noise. No whirring. Silence. I walked the Perygyl. Stars flickered on and off. A seagull traversed the sky, a gliding line of white. Past the Castle then into the wall of noise. Outside The Angel the kids gathered, reeking of stale beer and cigarettes. Swaggering youth. Shouting. Down the hill and crossing the road at Boots Opticians a group of three lads in hoods. Still dark. They come too close, talking gruffly to each other. Do they sell ciggies in garage? one asks his friend. Hackles down, they turn the corner towards the station. No threat, ever.

I am safe. Safe in my nothingness. They do not see me. I like that. I watch, listen and wait.

I pass the Pelican Bakery, open at 6.30 am just like in France and Spain. The early morning flurry of buying breakfast sticks, brioche and croissants. And the buzz of hotel vans collecting their sacks of bread. One-day bread, too dry for the next. Can I have butter, mantequilla por favor, avez-vous du beurre? Daily bread. Our daily bread.

To work. Off. Now. A bientot.