The sky is the colour of milk. There is no breeze. Will the sun emerge?
As I walk in the early morning I try to commit what I see, hear and smell to memory. Just until I get home. I chant sentences, phrases, rather like he does before we get to Morrisons. Coffee, olive, kitchen roll, coarse black pepper, he says. Have I forgotten anything? Was that it? Tip top.
It is morning but the dark makes it seem like night. Before 5 am. A nightscape. A theatre in the dark, in the round. The club on the pier will be just closing. Kids will spill out, leery. The fog makes the air cold. I walk through pockets of quiet. An odd bird. A robin, chirruping. On North Road taxi speeds past setting off the alarm of a grey sports car. There is no flashing lights just an insistent wah wah noise. Then it stops. Down the hill onto the promenade and I see a girl walking towards Alexandra Hall. She is in pyjamas dotted with what looks like santas and a large black cardigan. Silence. Nearing the new bandstand I hear voices. Three students, one of which is a black girl. I thought the orange fur was the hood of a parka but it is her hair. She is in shorts. Her voice is loud. Like, a FUCKING MILLION times, she shouts. Two bouncers stand in the doorway of Pier Pressure nightclub. They talk in hushed tones, something about identity cards. They wear bright yellow jackets. The odour of lukewarm pizza hangs heavy in the air around the old college. There is no wind. An oystercatcher pip-pips in the dark. A beetle scurries across the paving slabs towards the railing. The Hut is shut up. South Marine Terrace is still. There is a large black man standing in the lit inner entrance to the Serviced Apartments. He is standing asleep. His head lolls forward and his body jerks upright. He doesn’t make a sound. Has he lost his key? Beyond the harbour there is a sharp keening yell. Is it a cat or a sea bird? The Perygyl is wet with dew. The water below laps gently. The screeching echoes through the mist. I can still see some stars. Bunches of students are coming up Great Darkgate Street with plastic bags of food from the 24 hr SPAR. A boy is talking earnestly to a girl. They don’t wear coats. I forgot to smell the baking bread from Slater’s bakery but perhaps the door was closed. A lorry waits for TESCO to open, its lights ablaze. Yesterday there was a man waiting with his bike outside a house on Llanbadarn Road. A light in an upstairs window as on. Had he just thrown pebbles? This morning there is no one. I haven’t heard the owl for a while. The lights still aren’t on in St Davids Road. I am warm now. I shut the door behind me and breathe.
Oh, God it’s her, he says as a woman takes the table just beyond ours. I watch her. She has a handbag and a white shoulder bag. There are three silk flowers in her hair and she places what look like four dried wheat stalks on the table. She helps herself to water. Clearly she has not ordered any coffee. From where I am sitting I can see that she has a book that has been much written in. Lines have been drawn under most sentences. She hunches over it, scribbling. Both of her bags are bursting with notebooks, pens and tissues. She is distracted, worn.
Here we go, he says, as she stands up to leave, she’ll be in the loo now for about 20 minutes. That’s what she used to do in Starbucks. Up and down, up and down. And all that shouting. And that strange laughter. I know, I know she’s anxious, and I am kind to her. She just irritates me, that’s all. I just wanted to read the paper.
I watch her from the window. She pats her hair, pushes the strap of her handbag further down her arm and shuffles into the White Lion.
In NATWEST the staff are wearing Welsh rugby shirts over their uniforms. Do you have to wear them? I ask Dion. Oh, we want to, he says, though there aren’t enough to go around. I shall have to give mine up when Rhiannon comes in. She has better claim on it than me, I was born in England.
You know that the English rugby team sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot as part of their anthem? he says. Yes, I say. Well, apparently Rob Rattray the butcher is selling sausages called Burnt Chariots. Do you get it?