There goes the toy man, he said as we got out of the car. The toy man owns a toy shop on Pier Street. Its window is crammed full with boxes of airfix models, jigsaws and train sets. Most of the time he stands at the door, smoking. He must be in his late fifties or even early sixties, it is hard to say. He never seems to have any customers. His clothes are unkempt, his hair, greasy and lank, flaps in his eyes. He never smiles.
The gym was quiet this morning. No boys loping round the weight machines. Just me, the other middle-aged woman in the lilac tee-shirt stretching on a mat and the round, pudding-like one on the sitting bicycle. She is there the same mornings as I am. Perhaps she goes everyday. She reminds me of a Christmas Pudding. A Christmas Pudding with little legs poking out. She wears navy tracksuit bottoms, an anorak and carries an enormous handbag. Her hair is cut in a blonde page-boy. Climbing aboard the bike, she fidgets her bottom into a comfortable position and then hauls her bag onto her lap. Taking out glasses and book, she then proceeds to start up the machine. She never rides particularly fast. No sweat is broken. But she stays on it for half an hour, rhythmically and methodically, like a cow chewing cud, turning the pedals. I caught sight of the front cover of her book the other day. The How To Slim Fast Diet Book, it read.
The downstairs flat has been let. We’d seen them going in to hang shelves. He was put out. They didn’t hang shelves for us, he said. We met them yesterday. Hugo and Hettie. They must be in their eighties. A tiny couple. You like it here? Hugo asked him. We shook hands. She seemed pleased. We’ve already met our neighbours, she said to a young woman bringing in a vegetable carton of newspaper-wrapped crockery. That’s nice, isn’t it? she said. Bye, we said. See you soon. Bye.