It's November. When I go to bed I climb under four blankets and my duvet and I'm wearing the fluorescent striped socks my Great Granny knitted me for me when I was fourteen. After spending much of the past fortnight lying in bed in the evenings, under the layers, watching Mad Men (through my own breath) because it was too cold to do much else, Rose gently suggested that we put the heating on this week. She had tried to send a text but she couldn't feel her own fingers so she came into my room and said 'Stevie. The time has come'. So, it's November and the beginnings of Winter proper.
Despite all of this there is a clan of stubborn sunflowers on Santiago Road and they're standing in the face of the first frost. They're planted in a small unofficial allotment at the side of the road which is my favourite part of the route I take when I cycle into work each morning. On Thursday the sky was bright and the air was bitter and I was that person who is wearing socks on their hands instead of gloves because 'buy gloves' remains at the end of my to-do list that never gets scribbled off.
After roads and roads of potholes I turn onto Santiago Street where the surface is smoother and everything is a bit quieter. Sometimes there might be a van parked at junction with men unloading hanging meat to take into the nearby shop. (I took a photo of them sometime last year) There'll be some kids walking to school, sometimes by themselves and sometimes trailing after a parent. And there is the man who stands outside of his house on Newark Avenue, the front of which is filled with potted plants which spill right up to his neighbours' front doors too. He stands out on the street dragging on a cigarette intensely, starring off somewhere. This always makes me think of my own Dad. Whenever I visit him at home in Bristol he'll usually be in the back garden, sitting in his wooden chair, rolling a cigarette with liquorice paper and then sitting back with deep relief to smoke it. His smaller children are safely on the other side of the sliding doors, the glass stopping noise from entering his little zone and I wonder how it is that he still has children under the age of seven, but I won't say anything because he just gives me a look that says "I know". The man on Newark Avenue has the same endearing look of distance on his face, but I like to think that he stands outside not just to escape but to admire and guard his prized plants, too.
I'll pass the allotment and the sunflowers. On Thursday there was a small pile of discarded DVDs next to the plants. One of them was Secretary. Then there is the basketball court which is always brightly lit by the sun at that time in the morning and next the 'Hans Knitwear' factory which is now an Islamic Centre and sometimes has groups of men standing and talking outside.
I continue onto Deramore Street. If I time it right I pass as the 'Biker Grove' man is there. He's in his sixties and wears a high-vis jacket and shouts 'Yeah! Biker Grove!' in a patois accent at passing cyclists and the familiar pun always makes me laugh. Midway down the street on the right is the old woman who is always, always sitting on her sofa surrounded by books. There are books everywhere and her blinds are always drawn so you can really get a good look in. Shelves full of them and then piles on every table surface and one open in her lap so that it looks like she has a project on the go, except that she is always leaning to watch the television. This woman in her sitting room is my very favourite part of this stretch because she is always there whether I pass in the morning or the evening. There is nothing sad about the sight and something about the blinds being thrust open means I never feel that I'm intruding on her by peeking into her space. I always just think that it looks like a nice cosy set-up and I bet she has a pretty enviable biscuit tin.