My knee has been stiff for the last few days so I decide to go for a walk. Frankly I need the exercise; my sedentary lifestyle and ready-meal diet has seen me swelling like a happy prick and my brilliant idea of swapping drinking litres of red wine for litres of full fat coke hasn't exactly done wonders for my...well, anything. So I go for a walk aiming for a park called Orangefield. I know where Orangefield road is and I head for it thinking it'll lead to the park. It doesn't. It leads to an Orangefield Grove, and to an Orangefield Grove, an Orangefield Way, an Orangefield Straight, an Orangefield Path, an Orangefield Straight and Orangefield Clippings. There is no park. I continue on through similar permutations on the word Sandhill before finding Clarawood which was likewise diffuse. But Clarawood did have a park and a millenium park at that, made up of a series on concentric circles; like Basingstoke - or hell.
Leaving it I happen into the Clarawood Estate which has only one way in and one way out, like the whale that swallowed Pinnochio. As I am in there I am buzzed by men driving around in cars, like flies round the ceiling, their tattooed elbows hanging out of their window. I'm suddenly reminded of the Shankhill Butchers and mince at speed away from the cruising killers. Every man I see is either bald, tattooed or smoking and most are all three and doing something with their cars. I am reminded of my childhood, of that sense of suburban otherness (I never left the house as a child so everything seemed odd and strange when I went outside. Basingstoke, though far more suburban, I knew with contemptable familiarity). It's street after street of smalled, named houses; stone-clad where they aren't pebble-dashed. It's like Portslade, near Brighton, where I grew up in seventies except the cars have all swollen to monstrous proportions; all cow-catchers and chrome. I don't know what people are doing with all those cows they must be easily, possibly inadvertantly, catching.
Every house has a rusting basketball hoop fixed to the front of the garage.
While I'm terrified of the men (and men everywhere) the women are delightful. They smile. They say hello. They aren't even selling anything. After London it's a revelation. By the end of the walk I am actually returning smiles and hellos. If I could have tipped my hat I would have done - my hair will not tip. And at no point during this fairly pointless circuit (I end up back at Orangefield Road and go home) am I pepper-sprayed.
I call that a result.