So today me & B went off to Glasgow to get our month’s supply of recycled veg cooking oil that fuels our car. Our supplier, Dave, has just moved to to a new place, a rented house on a scheme.
Driving around the place was a reminder of one of the many reasons we have retired to the ruralities – although the majority of the houses looked well-kept with tidy gardens, there were far too many boarded-up houses and overgrown and rubbish-strewn gardens. And the few people around looked like a Daily Mail reader’s worst nightmares – very young women in cheap clothes and too much makeup pushing buggies, sunken-faced young men with tattoos nursing tinnies. But this was the afternoon, I told myself; the people who kept their gardens tidy and their steps washed – and there must have been some – wouldn’t be hanging around listlessly.
We eventually found Dave’s place, around the back of the one prewar house on the estate. Only a little bigger than the semis surrounding it, it had an impressive stone-clad colonnaded frontage and had evidently been built by a prosperous Victorian gentleman wanting to show off his wealth. Now it was a sad sight, windows and doors boarded up, covered in graffiti. A sign alongside a side entrance indicated that it had been used as some sort of council office until quite recently.
Dave, coming out to greet us, almost immediately pointed at the building. “My grandparents lived there!” he said proudly. Originally, his grandparents had owned much of the land on which the scheme had been built; the house was their farmhouse and was now the sole remnant of what once had been. It had been complete coincidence that Dave had moved to a house only yards away; he had only learnt about it when he had told his Dad where he was moving to. “Things do come around, don’t they!”
While he and B chatted about cars and fuels and engines, I got out and wandered around.
A couple of skinny tabby cats were relaxing on the top of a wheelie bin. I pride myself on being able to speak rudimentary Cat (though no more than “Greetings!”, “I am friendly” and “GERRROFF!!”), so I treated them to my best “Rrrrwwww-owwrnn-nnghhhk?” They immediately leapt towards the safety of their house and stood at their door, looking back at me with narrowed yellow eyes, flicking their tails at the mad human. Perhaps they spoke a different dialect to the cats around my house?
Around the corner was a huge rain-puddle covering most of the road. Two young girls were standing at the edge of it; one was about five, the other a couple of years older and clutching a grubby teddy that was wearing a vile-pink doll’s dress.
“Come on, let’s see how deep it is, I won’t let you get wet…” The older one took the younger one’s hand and the toe of them slowly began to edge out into the water. Ferociously focussed, they slid each foot forward carefully, cautiously, one at a time, making sure the water didn’t rise above the top of their plastic shoes.
All of a sudden, the sun dipped out from behind the clouds. The two girls’ heads were haloed in light and the ripples sparkled around their feet.
I wished, WISHED for a camera, before remembering that people were funny about photographing children in public these days. I shifted position, moved my head; the sun hit my eyes. In front of me were two small figures draped in golden radiance, gliding upon a diamond sea. Where were they travelling to?
I shook my head, rubbed my eyes. the sun went in. A woman called from across the street. The two young water-walkers turned and ran back to their house.
Driving home, we stopped at a chippy; B stayed in the car while I got the food – chips for me, fish and chips for him. Waiting for the order, I studied the people – the girl behind the counter with the Amy Winehouse ‘do, the manager who looked like a bouncer, the woman and her daughter buying pizza, the schoolkids buying sausages and burgers….
And I thought about what I had seen earlier. Was it possible to see these people like that? Was it just a matter of looking the right way? I squinted my eyes, got only the shine of the fluorescents. But the girl with the Winehouse hair was moving like a dancer, and the burly tattooed manager spoke softly and gently and smiled a lot. And the woman let her daughter have most of the pizza. And the schoolkids were happy-noisy and exchanged cracks with the manager….
There’s more than one way of looking……