Signs of seasonal change in the Park as two green tractors, heavy as tanks, make a getaway to the road after slicing down the remaining wildflower blooms in the bee meadows; leaving a dull neatness with a few surviving magenta blooms still glowing beside their tyre marks – delicate survivors.
There is a more pensive air even than last week – when the heavy rains made the footpaths run like creeks, the fresh fall of acorns crunched underfoot in the golden oak tree mulch and the last big socially distanced excercise group spread in a wide circle doing side push ups in the mud, rivulets of rain running down their cagoul hoods and soaking them through; hard to tell if they were there out of commitment or a sentence to community self improvement in adverse conditions.
Today, people walked in ones or twos, or with dogs, and kept an eye on each other as we passed; and the outdoor gym equipment was fenced off again. Two blokes with hoodies – who looked a bit like they had escaped from an Assassin’s Creed game – worked out furtively inside – having got in by limbo dancing presumably.
Among the shops, a man with his shirt off and an angry glare sits with a couple of suitcases full of junk for sale.
In one of the new trees, a large plush tiger, its stuffing whitely exposed along a terrible rent in its back, is jammed between the branches. Although its paws are crossed casually its expression is one of intense humiliation and annoyance.
One of the few survivors of Brent’s year as Borough of Cultures is this mural of local boy George Michael on a cut through to a car park between Winkworths and a Romanian Supermarket. I’m not sure it speaks to anyone and seems to be an assemblage of parts that don’t quite cohere. But, perhaps that’s the message. And perhaps life is like that.
On the way back up the street, the shirtless guy – now fully dressed – is standing in the middle of the road being honked by considerate motorists and shouting at a bloke trying to drive away from the kerb in a black SUV. With the body language of a man taking charge, he advances to the front of the vehicle, still shouting, and bangs hard on the bonnet. Although he is shouting loudly its hard to tell what he’s saying. After the third bang the bloke in the car gets out annoyed and starts squaring up. “Shirtless guy” retreats a bit then puffs himself up. No words but both of them saying “Yeah? Come on then” as the traffic flows in between. Everyone watches in puzzled bemusement. All that’s needed is a David Attenborough commentary – “the humiliated males make a ritual aggressive display with out-thrust chests and loud cries…” The driver gets back in his car and heads off, not before shirtless guy has given his windscreen another thump – on the other side this time just to be symmetrical.