a bank holiday
The bank holiday view from the living room window just two floors up converges on a red bicycle. It has been chained to the railing for the past three weeks. Nothing much changes from hour to hour this close to the ground. Garbage stacked tidily on the pavement drifts out of position only according to the weather. The vagaries of northerly winds. Booted feet scuffling after a runaway ball. The old neighbourhood was different. Another twenty tiers on the cake dramatically affects what the eye detects. Delivers cinéma vérité where pizza peddlers fear to tread, snapping gang fight to amorous clinch and all manner of collisions in between. The buoyancy of REM sleep. While those same winds gust and pluck on the glass like a suction cup on contact lenses. Elevated to gales. My city is the capital of knife crime. Often, swords are preferred. Machetes. Here and now, the walls hem one in. Out. The act of walking to the corner shop for cigarettes is stepping into a narrowed artery more claustrophobic than high rise living. One goes where the blood coagulates, where the air is sucked out the fats. Only venturing that far hand in hand with my young son seems to raise my spirit. Of course, I am a contrary motherfucker. Easily given to nostalgia. Maudlin in my cups. The old neighbourhood had its disadvantages. I waited in this morning for a washing machine repair while my boxer shorts stank up the drum. The bearings had not gone. Though I might well have lost mine. The older I get, the shorter the sentences. The grammar has always been suspect. The washing machine has ruptured on its cycle. The fast spin. While I am covered, and the cost of a new drum exceeds that of a brand new machine, they will sooner repair it than replace it. Well. It has been a good machine all those years. Reliable. I can not grudge it shelter under the sink. My next door neighbour has already lost her toes. She will not stop smoking either, electing instead to play out her hand with taciturn defiance. The odds favour Osborne. Death by a thousand cuts. Austere, in the end, as a bonfire fanned by an Afghan rabble. The doctors dispense minor repairs while sharpening stainless steel blades. We are all of us short on breath. The eloquent river dried up several general elections ago. Blistering in puddles. We talk on in staccato extracts from the past, abridged to the point of severing all definition. Wincing through it like yellow cats soaking up the nicotine. Pissing away identity while successive governments reinvent entire populations bereft of skills. My city is the murder capital of what remains the United Kingdom. Sadly. Harking back to old contested family ties. Do not get me wrong. It is a bank holiday. That is still something. A reason to uncork a bottle. Unscrew the cap, if one has insufficient means. A reason to get pissed without the attendant Presbyterian guilt of the regular working week, the clocking on and off of the respectably pious. One may even start on a bottle with the curtains flung wide open. Inebriation is the norm. Later, conceivably, I may sashay forth from my domicile. I will navigate dog turds to sniff out some bank holiday sunshine. A dose of vitamin D to counteract the toxins. I might even make it so far as the park. To look on young women exercising animals off the leash, a handful of more elderly persons working their way to a close through the proverbial afternoon tipple. A litter of bottles and cans in plastic bags. I will smoke a cigarette or two and carefully dispose of the butts. Like the decent motherfucker I am. And I will return in time to hanker after living in a basement as I did decades before. The 22nd floor not so long ago. All the while grieving after my failing gums; the muscle turned to lard. Stronger than dirt.