As I slot the first flyer through the letterbox I cause the flap to fall back heavily making a terrible loud noise. This is completely unintentional and motivated perhaps by the sound of barely audible steps rushing to the door. I mistakenly take these to belong to a dog even though there is no “beware of” sign to be seen.
Thus begins my
annual leaflet drop.
I love this part of
my job. For one, it puts me in direct contact with the local community. In addition,
it serves as further study of London’s urban life.
My regular beat
starts in the block of flats located about a quarter of a mile away from the
school where I am based. I usually end here, too, working my way around the
neighbourhood in a circle. The low-rises sit in a triangular layout overlooking
a patch of grass that has seen better days. As I walk past the front gardens of
the ground-level houses and I am exposed to shoes of all types and sizes, I
begin my usual fun-filled, mental guessing game. Flat-soled, open-toed sandals
with wedge at the back? They probably belong to my Romanian crowd, usually
Gypsy ones. Flat, dark brown, leather toe-looped sandals-cum-slippers? Usually,
my Asian gang. “Chunky-looking”, cross-strapped, black sandals? Probably my
Two north London football
clubs vie for space on clotheslines, windows and doors. N17 White Hart Lane vs
N7 Emirates take their battle off the pitch and on to this patch of
early-morning, sun-drenched suburbia. In the air lingers the aroma of turmeric
and ginger. Nice contrast to the smell of cannabis that wafts out of one of the
windows on my right.
I go up the
urine-stained stairs of one of the buildings and after dropping a few more flyers
I gaze down at the green, rectangular patch below. Bereft of slides and see-saws,
this is more dog territory than play area. As if to confirm my theory a bloke
comes out with his canine in tow. Clad in a black, loose T-shirt and jeans, he
reminds me of one of the lines in Blur’s
Parklife: “I feed the pigeons, I sometimes feed the sparrows too/It gives me a
sense of enormous well-being”. Well, he is only feeding his dog, which
responds in kind by fouling on the grass a few times in the scarce minutes I am
up on the first floor. Perhaps the dog has a funny tummy. But its owner has
funny hands. They are completely unable to produce a little bag with which to
dispose of the dog excrement.
I give a curt “you
awright, mate?” to the stranger and cross over to the other side of the train
station. Immediately the scenery changes. Fewer flats and more houses. A mix of
social and private tenants probably renders this area the blue hue in mayor of
London, Sadiq Khan’s recent graph of the capital’s property map. The further
you go into London, the more amber and orange the colours are, denoting
foreign ownership. But out here in the “burbs, it is still mainly UK
buyers who go for local property. By UK, please, understand UK-based, not
necessarily UK-born. Since I was last here a year ago, the amount of building work
has increased. I exchange greetings with an Irish builder, his cockney geezer
sidekick and a Polish driver (I know he is Polish. I can tell by the accent
I almost bump into
a lanky, forty-something chap as I leave the front garden of one of the houses.
He is also on a flyer mission. His, however, is linked to the pizza takeaway on
the high road. A mechanical, almost muted, accented “hello” escapes his lips as
he mechanically moves from accommodation to accommodation, with a mechanical
gait, probably mechanically counting how many leaflets he has got left to
deliver. I skip the next house on account of the “No Junk Mail” sign on the
door. Flyer-man does go in, leaving his promotional material tucked halfway in
the letterbox. Mechanically, of course.
As I make my way
back to the low-rises, I catch sight of the local postie. “Giving me
competition, mate?”. Nah, I answer, I wouldn’t be able to do your miles with
your heavy bag. I walk away, fewer
flyers in my hands now. Postman soon becomes a red dot on the urban horizon, his shorts and bare legs a barometer to indicate that autumn has not arrived yet.
Next Post: “Thoughts
in Progress”, to be published on Saturday 8th October at 6pm