By Glyn Roberts
A superannuated groover ambles down Preston Street, jacket open to reveal a respectable beer gut and a T-shirt bearing the motto ‘Old Guys Rule’. Nothing new there: they always have. Bob Dylan took issue with it in his younger days, but to no avail.
He (the groover, not Bob) pauses at the retro record shop, where the proprietor, true to rock‘n’roll tradition, is opening for business at half past one on a November afternoon. Darkness will soon envelop his wares, which he carries out, box after box, to place carefully on trestle tables. He knows his game all right: no respectable rocker would be expected to emerge before noon.
And, talking of rockers, a representative of the punk variety is making his way awkwardly up the street, hampered by tight jeans and clumpy boots. Gulls wheel above, seeking out discarded portions of chips, and are briefly distracted by the punk rocker’s singular hairstyle, perhaps identifying it as the nest of a rival avian.
An incoming lady, in full sail and several sheets to the wind, attempts to pass through the well-polished plate-glass door, taking it to be open. It is not. She quickly recovers from the collision and finds a discrete table from where she adjusts her make-up and ponders on aspects of concussion. A large gin and tonic follows.
Several sporting types, clad in grey tracksuits, congregate outside to smoke cigarettes and dispense litter on the pavement. Passing on from this happy scene, eyes are drawn to something fluttering in the wind. From the top floor of the house opposite, a tattered and storm-damaged Union flag, hanging from an upstairs window, suggests a heroic last stand against enemies unknown. Landlords, bailiffs?
This is a slack time of day. In small provincial towns, lunch is not an event. The several Indian restaurants have opened, without much hope. Shop and office workers race to be seated at one of the many cafes, while those of a more alcoholic disposition repair to the Spoons. Or the Vaults, which is providing cut-price competition. Several regulars can be identified, settled in for the afternoon. Time hangs heavy. The red wine drinker enters, orders, and heads for his accustomed table, only to find it occupied by a variety of hippie, who eats his hamburger noisily and with relish. The red wine man searches for a solution, but it is not to be found. A complex social geography precludes movement from one’s chosen area in the Spoons: our man couldn’t possibly relocate to the postnatal area near the lavatories, for example. Or the geriatric zone. The hippie finishes and moves on. The situation is resolved. The new wave survivor inserts his earphones and settles down to his own entertainment.
Looking up the road into Stone Street, respectability asserts itself in the form of Estate Agent and Funeral Director, each having its place in life’s spectrum: bricks and mortar or a tasteful slab of limestone. Couples gaze longingly at the houses advertised, look wistfully at the prices and move on. A train has arrived: a new influx takes over, an altogether different subculture. Smarter, more animated perhaps, or just restless after the train journey. They, unlike the street population, appear to have things to do, deadlines to meet. A proportion are drawn by the gravitational pull of sub-two-quid-a-pint beer and apply themselves to the task in hand. Hastily golluped, a sufficient quantity is consumed within 30 minutes, then they are gone. The sportsmen evaporate, with loud farewells, and the maternity clique begins to leave, in slow procession. The first school children move noisily down the street in the direction of the chip shop. Dusk begins to gather around the boxes of CDs opposite as drizzle dampens the pavement. Time to leave the Spoons.