On my street, halfway up the hill someone has left a pile of bright yellow Don’t Pay Energy Bills Oct 1st leaflets on a garden wall. They have blown in the wind all over the pavement like autumn leaves amongst the equally yellow barriers put up by the gas men around the holes in the pavement they have dug to replace the mains. This, according to their hand out, is to make our increasingly unaffordable gas supply safe for “many decades to come”. This is a bit alarming. If we are to be off fossil fuels by 2050, “many decades to come” can’t be more than three at the most.
Along Grove Park, on top of the low brick wall under the boundary fence of The Village School – its shrubbery studded by crushed beer cans and discarded wrappers blown in on the wind – someone, some time ago by the looks of it – has propped up a copy of Salman Rushdie’s children’s book Haroun and the Sea of Stories as though it is an offering, or possibly a statement of some sort. Soaked by rain and spattered by leaves and bits of paper, it is steadily decomposing back into the wood pulp from which it was printed, the pages stuck together in a papier-mâché morass. There is something simultaneously plaintive and defiant about it – an echo and reminder of what it once was; haunting itself like a literary ghost.
Down at the shops, a middle-aged black guy in a brushed fur cowboy hat emerges from the halal butchers looked bewildered.
A huge man wearing a windcheater with a gigantic Welsh dragon emblazoned on the back chats quietly with his mate, in Polish. His 8 or 9 year old son stands next to him with an identical stance and body language.
Outside Aldi – “the cheap shop” – an aging Indian bloke stands staring across the road in a full-length black leather coat and battered, but smart, brown fedora, looking like a slightly effete secret policeman from 1920’s central Europe.
And this evening there were no less than two foot-patrols of police officers walking through the shopping drag. Two men heading East and, ten minutes later, two women heading West, crossing each other’s path like an attenuated square dance. Neither were making any contact with the life on the streets. The two women were absorbed in conversation with each other, turned inwards as they proceeded at the regulation two miles an hour in the general direction of Iceland and VBs and both talking at once. The two men seemed cut off from everything, and each other. No eye contact with anyone, staring unfocussed and a bit glacially into the middle of next week as they walked. There but not there. An oddly passive presence. Waiting for something to react to rather than trying to connect.
Between 1912 and 1920 along the West side of the Edgeware Road, where the Loon Fung, Morrisons and Asda Supermarkets are now and stretching up as far as the Volkswagen dealership by Hay Lane, was where the Airco factory used to be. This was a vast workshop that built a large proportion of the aircraft used by the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. All the original De Havilands. The company went bankrupt within two years of the armistice. The end of the war meant there was no demand for aircraft anymore and BSA, who bought it, were sold a pup (and not of the Sopwith variety).
The only part of the original factory that’s left is the former head office, which is now the Beis Yaakov Primary School. Glancing across at it, it is surrounded with solid black railings well above head height – fortress style – and there is a tall square extension in compatible architecture topped off with an inwardly curving fence, presumably to stop balls being kicked over from the rooftop playground and, possibly, to make it hard for someone with hostile intent to throw anything in the other way. At 10 in the morning there are two Community Security Trust blokes shooing in Orthodox looking Mums in sleek grey SUVs delivering a rather late school run. They are both wearing bright yellow hi vis vests. One of them is holding on to it with both hands at chest height, while repeatedly doing that knee flex thing that the Police tend to do when they are standing still but feeling tense. Evenin’ all.
After announcing Liz Truss’s resignation as Prime Minister on the 2pm News, the first piece of music played by Radio 3 was the Thunder and Lightning Polka. I guess they are not in mourning.