Outside Scotmid a young girl with matted hair sits on a tartan blanket. ‘Any spare change, please.’ A man carries a baby, pressed like a pillow into his belly. He stops at Bayne’s window to point out the green spider decorations and the buns shaped as pumpkins, iced with orange fondant. The baby is too young to tell him what she thinks. Hallowe’en is coming and the goose is getting fat, Covid’s in the air and the world has gone to rats.
Here comes the siren, there’s always a siren stabbing the air, bloodying my ears, pulsing down the middle of the road, piping chaos into side streets, while white van man leans on the passenger door letting it all wash over him. Strips of chipboard tied to his roof, he makes shapes in the air with outstretched arms to the guy holding a toolbox who nods at his sermon. Could be construction, football, family, philosophy they speak of, who knows?
A new consignment of furniture has arrived at the second-hand furniture shop. I can’t remember its name, the one beside the kebab shop with the graffitied shutters. Goods are being unloaded from a truck, lined up onto the street. Two raffia chairs with chintz covers that make me think of the eighties, and posh people who had sunrooms.
Another siren. An ambulance is slicing down the middle of the road and now the Golf is trying to overtake the Mini even though the Golf knows full well that the Mini only pulled in to let the ambulance pass. You had to wait till you were born – that’s what my nana used to say about displays of impatience.
Amazing the number of people who walk around plugged into earphone these days. It has become so common that I no longer notice it; now that I choose to notice, it’s everywhere. Those little white one with cables disappearing into a pocket, the wireless buds, the chunky ones that sit over your head like a halo. That cool guy with the yellow trousers that stop short of his ankles, that’s the kind he has clamped to his head, as though he is in a recording studio. He means business.
That’s nice, a young couple holding hands. He’s carrying a bulging Next bag; her hands are free. Chivalry is not dead after all. I wonder do people hold hand more or less than they used to? Is holding hands like wearing earphones and I have become blind to it too?
Before I leave the flat, I often look out the front window to gauge the temperature; assess how cold it must be from what people are wearing. It is hard to know today, there seems to be little consensus. There are scarves and beanies and parkas, but there are also t-shirts and denim jackets – and look at that eejit wearing a pair of shorts with flipflops, the guy walking a black lab. That’s just weird. Maybe he’s got athlete’s foot and has been told to let the air between his toes.
It’s odd to see people coming out of Scotmid and rubbing their hands like that. This time last year I would have wondered what that was all about.
On a straw poll of the cyclists I’ve seen, most are wearing helmets. I would too with all those buses cutting them up. Unlike her there, the lady in the purple tights and a flowery skirt with a basket up front. Isn’t it funny the choices people make? She’s probably old enough for the flu jab and yet off she goes down a busy road on two wheels, all this traffic chaos with her wee head exposed.
There’s a woman with a cello strapped onto her back. I wonder how she is faring in the current climate? Can’t be a good time to be a musician.
Now we have a street singer, not the most tuneful. He has stopped already. Ah! he was serenading the homeless girl wrapped in tartan and he’s giving her a sandwich and a bottle of Lucozade. Nice. He’s a little unsteady, though, high on something and I don’t think it’s life.
It’s a grey old day, those puddles are going nowhere, there would be no point in putting the washing out on a day like today. A day to stay inside and cook. Speaking of which, a Waitrose.com delivery van has just passed. Now there’s a thought.
And there goes a woman with a shopping trolley. This is a shopping trolley sort of street. I thought about getting one. Fleetingly. Jamie Oliver tried to make them hip a few years back, but I know I would end up looking like her, and that’s not the look I’m going for (not for twenty years anyway). Mind you, the puce coloured mac she’s wearing doesn’t help. No, I’ll just stick to two jute bags tearing the arms out of me when I go for the groceries. Jamie’s trolley look involves him going to Borough Market wearing a pair of Vegas and an ‘ironic’ Back to the Future sweatshirt. I’d be going to Lidl in tracksuit bottoms that I sometimes wear to bed and a coat that I got in Lothian Cat Rescue last winter to keep in the boot in case the car ever broke down but somehow it found its way into the house.
Across the way a man leans out a of second-floor window to smoke. He is sending a text message. Steam rises from a of vent above Dears Pharmacy. Pigeons peck on a high ledge. Gulls caw.
There you are, you’ve had a look down onto my street. Could be anywhere in Scotland. I suppose it is what peace looks like: nothing much happens, life trundles on, people do their best.
Glasgow Sonnet (i) by Edwin Morgan
A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash.
Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses
puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses
of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash.
Four storeys have no windows left to smash,
but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses
mother and daughter the last mistresses
of that black block condemned to stand, not crash.
Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl.
The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob.
Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall.
The man lies late since he has lost his job,
smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall
thinly into an air too poor to rob.