By Parson Thru
Lockdown easing, people out and about, an Oxfam shop opened today.
I cycled to Clifton, ate a sandwich under a tree and drank a coffee with roofers hammering, yammering, cars passing, walkers and riders in conversation or talking to dogs or the backs of push-chairs or no one.
Wisdom gleaned in the café:
What a shame, all that fuss over Black Lives Matter and the Reading stabber turns out to be Muslim. What a shame.
Seven minute captive audience. People here are awfully nice.
The bike allows freedom of sorts.
Pedalling into the centre, past the Minster, Goodramgate – given to me as Goodroomgate, probably Gudrun, one among many – tracing Stonebow's tribute to hubris and empty space, across the river then down a gear to Micklegate’s hill – where the bookshop’s still closed – a tempting invitation to quiet prayer from under irrelevant ancient trees, turning into Priory Street and Bishophill, a warren that held no childhood interest, swinging the bike with the flair of a teenage burglar through alleys and terraces, out of Bishophill Junior, right into Skeldergate – skel = river, gate = street – looking left across the Staithe to the old fireman’s house where my aunt lived in fear of rats and her husband – do the affluent harbour the same fears today? – to Rowntree’s Park where memories overflow from the pond, hidden flanks of minnow and stickleback, nets always clogged with weed and beatles, jam jars swinging on string, our errand to vanish out of the house until lunchtime, awareness extending no further than a crumpled net at the tip of a cane – ripples set the chicks bobbing behind the coot, her gentle call a lesson for mothers not far from here, she dives, bumps her offspring out of the way, offers her bill to a yellow gape and I take a bench at the water’s edge, propping the bike, extracting the bag of books and pens, checking for texts from Spain and Africa, phone’s fritzed, so I pull out Hughes’s “Three Books” reading the notes, the bike a dutiful Labrador, handlebars watching the coots, when a man walks up, a crazy man, talking to anyone, moving on, asks me if I’m enjoying my book, and explains about crystal phosphorescence and gas in mines for an hour and leaves me his name, which I Google and mad as he is, every word is true and the flowers tied to the next bench are there for his wife.
Did I tell you? My mam used to bring me here in the pram.