July 9 2015 (Croydon)
It is warm. Queen’s Garden is busy with other lunch timers. Wander around with a sandwich, a book and a small water looking for somewhere comfortable to sit. Settle on the grass bank near the subway, in the shade shaped like railings. Eat sandwich, but my heart isn’t in it. Ditto H. Mantell’s Beyond Black. Pretty soon I am people watching.
Peg Power is sat on a bench chatting with a dim looking young man with a wispy beard. I haven’t seen Peg for years. Scoop up everything, pins and needles. The bin is full and I pull a face as I push the cheese and red onion M&S sandwich into its mouth.
I sit on my haunches in front of them both and we chat back and forth. His companion looks confused at me calling him Peg. It is pleasing to see that he has grown into a polite and confident young man. After several minutes my legs are aching and when I stand up I stumble around like an old lunatic on the verge, saying fuck.
On the way back to work I walk the long way through the shopping centre to avoid passing The End (it is now empty and lifeless and sad to see). At the top of the escalators I bump into George! It is so unexpected that, beyond surprised chit chat, there is little said. His eyes are kind.
Later, I am sorry that we didn’t speak more. I wish that I had mentioned about taking the long route to avoid the sadness of seeing the shop. I text him and say so. He texts back and says that he takes that route for the very same reason. This makes me both happy and sad.
A gang work on the train tracks late into the night. The arc lights bleed out the stars. Their voices carry across the road in waves. Metallic hammer strikes punch the darkness.
July 9 2018 (Byker)
Metro to Byker. Music and voices overhead as I walk along the front of the flats. At the far end of the forecourt a laughing group stand around a throwaway barbeque, smoking tabs and joints and drinking from a large plastic bottle of Diamond White. A vested man with many inky doodles on his arms searches the smoke clouded grill with a long, three pronged fork. He lunges back and forth like an ill-matched duellist.
Outside The Cluny cluster the cool. The air sparkles like prosecco; smells of beard oil, craft beer and vape. Cubist tattoos.
After the show I photograph the stage. It is covered in sheaves of printed notes. I take photos of the red Telecastor.
“Nice shot.” It is Darren Hayman.
“Nice gig,” I say. “You are still the hardest working man in lo-fi indie rock n roll.”
Darren Hayman studies my face. “Really?”
We chat about his gigs and my favourite albums of his. Suddenly he says, “I met you in Brighton last year. What are you doing up here?” And now I study his face. “How the hell do you remember that?!”
But this all goes to prove my statement.
July 9 2021 (Penn Beacon)
Up at 7am. I dress in shorts and tee shirt and as I’m tying my laces I realise that I am going for a run. I have been taking supplements for three days and wonder if this has some bearing on my sudden athletic surge?
Near the Rendezvous Cafe (no hyphen, no accent) a wet labrador appears from the beach steps. It shakes the water from its black fur. A woman with a blonde ponytail protruding from a blue baseball cap appears, too.
“Hot morning for a run,” she says. It is hot.
“The first this year,” I say as I pass. But her face suggests that we are at cross purposes. When I look back she is stood over the hound as it squats.
After my eye test I spend an agonising amount of time stood before racks of spectacles. They all look the same, but I try some on and look at myself in the mirror. I try to imagine a future me. The assistant stands behind me, cleansing fluid and cloth in her hands. “Just try as many as you want,” she says. “But put them on the desk after you’ve touched them.” She sounds American and, wearing a green framed pair, I ask her reflection, “Where’s your accent from?”
“These ones make you look intelligent?” I look back at myself and wonder what it is that she sees. “The green really suits you?”
“Racing Green?” I say.
I place them on the desk with the others. But I begin to feel as if a decision is forming. The rack of spectacles stares and I know that in the next 60 seconds I will say, “I like these ones.”
A loose constellation of geese pass across the window as the sky darkens. Honking.