Scarce of traffic, vehicular or pedestrian, Sumner Road stretches east-west across the early evening dereliction that was once lined with kempt and pretty red bricked terraces and local businesses, but now is bordered only by bombed-out and mostly abandoned buildings resembling broken teeth. Some are so destroyed that the backyards, wild with nettles, can be seen from the pavement. A sad donkey, with an anvil of a head, grazes in one. Rats in the knee high, come and go. In another yard a dining table has appeared and four or five red faced men have gathered around it on tea chests to share a greasesheet of cold chips. One, a thread of a man in pinstripes, laughs manically, taking deep nips from a bottle of blue liquid. Another has his face in the crook of his arm, breathing fumes from his sleeve.
Children, snot-nosed and scabby, feral things, hide and seek and dare among the mounds of bricks and timbers, disappearing in and out of deep craters and smashing glass and anything with stones and vicious, determined kicks. They war noisily with sticks and curses, making the donkey skitter nervously on the rubble. Curtain skeins, ragged and grey, web twisted frames and, as the sun, sparkling on the shards, sinks behind the irons of the gasometer, a woman, rotund and red-lipped and rouged, stands in a blasted doorway, soliciting any who happen to be passing with some vague question of time.
Every so often, the wasteland presented a lonely and colourless shop. Grimed windows displayed nondescript tins (containing, possibly, creosote or spam or kidney beans or dog meat), pickle jars, mason jars, jam jars, hard loaves, rag garments or sides of marbled meat dangling from hooks. Beneath a tattered awning, crates of cauliflower heads and great brownpaper bags of dirt spuds, chestnuts and sprouts. Skinned rabbits, twisted chickens, vast knuckles and unidentified little birds – some feathered – roughly hewn tripe cubes, knots of offal, a metal bucket of livers, some beetroot coloured hearts, laid out on plank beds alongside gamey, river fish, long dead. Fat and lacklustre bluebottles.
Here and there along this boarded wasteland, scrap yards, cemeteries really, for all manor of vehicles, some quite skeletal and some barely recognisable as, once, means of conveyance. Black pyramids of tyres. Alsatians and runty mongrels bark behind brickwork topped with glass teeth, their snarling chains dragging across concrete. Sheds, spray painted with warnings and enticements, barrelled bonfires burn and fists of meanfaced men, clothesrail thin, beer-bellowed, dressed in rags that were once best, gather. Brilliantine stained collars and grey cuffs.